The Department of Agriculture is considering a proposal to grant beverage makers that utilize high-grade sugar the ability to import 50% of their required supply.
During the general membership meeting of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Agriculture Undersecretary Mercedita Sombilla acknowledged that the scarcity and high cost of sugar remain the primary drivers of food inflation.
Sombilla, former undersecretary at the National Economic and Development Authority, expressed her dissatisfaction with the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).
“It’s been a challenge for us,” Sombilla remarked about the SRA. “The sugar board controls the importation of sugar… it’s so difficult to get data from the SRA.”
The SRA warned of a 50,000-ton sugar shortage by August. While the SRA board has approved a sugar order allowing the importation of 150,000 tons, including buffer stock, the official issuance of the sugar order is still pending.
During the meeting, Sombilla initially mentioned a potential shortage of 150,000 to 200,000 tons but retracted the figures when pressed further. She explained that the country is facing shortages in other commodities like corn and pork.
According to Sombilla, the Philippines does not produce substantial quantities of high-grade sugar.
She urged beverage manufacturers to inform the Department of Agriculture of their sugar requirements, as the plan is to allow them to import 50% of their needed supply.
On March 22, 2023, six food and beverage manufacturers requested the permission of Malacañang to independently import sugar after traders refused to provide them price quotations.
The SRA allowed the importation of 75,000 tons on September 1, 2022, and authorized another 440,000 tons in February 2023, which was procured by three traders.