SRA wants Senate to probe manipulation of sugar prices
The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) is requesting the Senate to probe the allegedly unreasonable increase in the retail prices of sugar despite sufficient local supply.
In a letter addressed to Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, SRA board members Emilio Yulo and Roland Beltran asked the lawmaker to look into the possible profiteering of “unscrupulous individuals and self-interest groups” manipulating the prices of sugar in the market “at the expense of the sugar farmers.”
Yulo and Beltran represent sugar planters and millers at the agency’s board. Both officials, in earlier statements, have blamed the manipulation of prices to wholesalers and retailers. The letter was also supported by industry groups.
Average retail price for April is at P60 a kilo, higher by 20 percent compared to the same month last year. Prices hit a high of P71.50 in March and P68 this April.
Mill gate prices were more stable, hovering between P1,450 and P1,550 per 50-kg bag.
Ideally, even with the additional costs for processing, transport and packaging, the retail price for refined sugar should not go beyond P55 a kilo.
Sugar prices hitting above P60 a kg means the mill site price has to be around P3,000 per LKg—or double the current prevailing prices.
Yulo said the rising retail prices of sugar could just be “another ploy” to justify the proposal to allow the unimpeded importation of the commodity.
“Time and again, we have asked the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to look into possible violations, excise its mandate and ensure that consumers are protected as well to maintain the viability of the sugar industry. However … the DTI has in fact been one in calling the liberalization of the sugar industry without conducting an investigation on these allegations,” the letter said.
Zubiri, who hails from Bukidnon—a sugar-producing province, earlier signed a resolution opposing the liberalization of the industry, noting its adverse impact on 28 provinces involved in sugar production.
SRA chief Hermenegildo Serafica, while not included in the letter’s signatories, said the country’s sugar stock balance was currently at its highest at 1.1 million metric tons, or 143 percent higher than last year’s balance during the same period. —KARL R. OCAMPO
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