Sugar traders strike it rich with controversial importation deal

By Eileen Mencias

Michael Escaler, along with two other sugar traders, struck a P7 billion jackpot with the importation of 440,000 tons of sugar.

The Department of Agriculture granted Escaler’s All Asian Countertrade, Sucden Philippines and Edison Lee Marketing the authority to import sugar, ensuring windfall profits.

Senator Risa Hontiveros revealed that an industrial user had requested permission from the DA to import sugar from Thailand, where the wholesale cost of refined sugar is only P25 per kilo. However, the user was allegedly instructed by DA Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban to purchase from the three traders.

According to sources, All Asian Countertrade initially quoted a wholesale price of P85 per kilo. Hontiveros criticized the traders’ selling price as “outrageous” as refined sugar can be bought wholesale for P25 per kilo in Thailand.

She said that a reasonable importer could sell sugar at P61, including warehousing, duties, handling, and a decent profit of P8 per kilo per industry standard at a wholesale price point of P61.

At the P85 price set by All Asian, Hontiveros said the company allegedly earns a “super profit” of P24 per kilo.

Only the three traders were allowed to import the 440,000 tons of sugar, potentially earning them P10.5 billion. This amount could increase to P14 billion if the standard profit of P8 is added.

Hontiveros compared it to winning the super lotto 50 times without placing a bet. However, the traders agreed to sell sugar at a lower price of P80 per kilo, potentially earning them P7 billion if the price drops to P77 per kilo.

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