BUFFER STOCK. The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) says the import plan of 450,000 metric tons of sugar will be allocated for the country's buffer stock during the Laging Handa public briefing on Tuesday (Jan. 31, 2023). The import volume is expected to ensure adequate supply and stable process of refined sugar. (Screengrab)


MANILA – The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said on Tuesday it is awaiting the approval of the Department of Agriculture (DA) on its draft import plan of 450,000 metric tons of sugar for buffer stock.

During the Laging Handa briefing, SRA board member and planters’ representative Pablo Luis Azcona said they have considered the feedback of sugar producers and other stakeholders in the finalization of their draft import plan.

“We have already received the recommendations and comments of our stakeholders,” he said.

“What SRA will do is monitor the outstanding stocks of local sugar, and once we anticipate that we are about to lose supply, we will slowly release from the 450,000 (metric tons) that we are talking about. So, this will be a pure reserve stock po,” he added in mixed English and Filipino.

However, Azcona said the SRA will consider releasing portions of imported sugar once it arrives in the country to stabilize market prices.

“We might have to release some of it sa umpisa po (during the start) to just stabilize the prices kasi ‘yung prices natin, paakyat nang paakyat (because our prices keep increasing) because everybody is speculating that the sugar supply will be short in the end,” he said.

The SRA said the speculation of some traders is among the significant factors affecting the retail prices of sugar.

Moreover, the SRA also submitted a draft for a special allocation of sugar importation to the industrial sector.

“They have written (a request) and they want to have a special allocation for them. So we did the draft of a sugar order, and then we are waiting for the DA to come up with the decision whether to allow or disallow the special allocation,” Azcona said.

He, however, acknowledged the opposition of some groups on the said special allocation request.

“It's not normal… Usually, before, when we have an importation program and there is no specific volume specially assigned to industrials. What the industrial (sector) did before -- some of them are sugar traders so they just participated in the importation program. They competed against the other traders for allocations,” he added.

To date, the SRA said importation would only be done to secure buffer stock and prevent unreasonable price hikes but with crucial consideration on the import timing and volume, as the government works to help farmers increase local production.

For its long-term plan, the SRA said it will push for the block farming strategy with the help of the Department of Agrarian Reform.

“This will improve their production as a whole on a per-hectare basis. Basically, because once ma-block up natin sila (we block them up) into a bigger area, we can introduce technology and mechanization,” he said referring to land reform beneficiaries.

Besides block farming, the SRA is also looking into delaying the opening of the milling season to October.

“A lot of the mills opened in August this year so the price was very attractive. Our farmers, even though their sugarcane is only nine, 10 months old, are cutting it out so it has less sugar content,” he said.

The SRA said a delay in milling season opening would mean a five to 10 percent increase in sugar production. (PNA)