Sugar retail price skyrockets to P126/kg amid shortage, smuggling controversies

·Contributor
·3 min read
A vendor arranges repacked sugar on sale for 16.70 pesos ($0.36) on a table at a public market in Taguig City Metro Manila August 27, 2008. Philippine sugar output for the next crop year starting September is expected to drop about 8 percent from a 24-year high amid higher costs of fuel and fertiliser, a senior official said on Wednesday. (PHOTO: REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo)
A vendor arranges repacked sugar on sale for 16.70 pesos ($0.36) on a table at a public market in Taguig City Metro Manila August 27, 2008. Philippine sugar output for the next crop year starting September is expected to drop about 8 percent from a 24-year high amid higher costs of fuel and fertiliser, a senior official said on Wednesday. (PHOTO: REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo)

The retail price of refined sugar in Metro Manila has reached P126 per kilogram, amid numerous controversies including the alleged smuggling and hoarding of sugar in the country.

According to the Sugar Regulatory Administration’s (SRA) monitoring report, the price of refined sugar in Metro Manila supermarkets ranged from P86.55 to P126 per kilogram, breaching the P125-per-kilogram historical high.

SRA further reported that the average price of refined sugar in Metro Manila supermarkets is now P99.27 per kilogram, while the average price in public wet markets is P96.93 per kilogram.

Additionally, the average retail price of refined sugar in Metro Manila supermarkets and public wet markets rose by P6.26 and P1.93 per kilogram per week, respectively.

In a statement on Wednesday (Aug 24), the Department of Agriculture said that huge supermarket chains in the country namely Robinsons Supermarket, Savemore, SM Supermarket, and Puregold Supermarket, will sell refined sugar at a retail tag of P70 per kilogram.

Earlier, Malacañang declared the country’s sugar shortage "artificial" as initial inspections found thousands of tons of sugar being stored in warehouses in Caloocan City, Manila, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Batangas, and Davao.

On Wednesday, Bureau of Customs (BOC) officials reportedly discovered 460,000 sacks of sugar in warehouses owned by Crystal Sugar Milling Inc. in North Poblacion, Bukidnon, Malacañang said.

Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) agents found 466,142 sacks of raw sugar in the three warehouses. Of the total, around 264,000 sacks were said to have already been sold but remained in the warehouses.

“The government crackdown against hoarders and profiteers is part of the campaign of the Marcos government to bring down the price of sugar,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles said.

Sugar smuggling probe

After the discovery of "recycled" permits used to import 140,000 bags or 7,000 MT of sugar at the Subic Freeport, six officials of the Port of Subic Customs were relieved from their posts as the agency investigates alleged smuggling of sugar in the country.

In an order dated Aug 22, BOC Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz relieved Maritess Martin as the BOC Subic Port district collector and Maita Acevedo as the deputy collector for assessment.

Also removed from their posts were Giovanni Ferdinand Leynes, deputy collector for operations; Belinda Lim, chief of assessment division; Vincent Mark Malasmas, enforcement security service commander, and Justice Roman Geli, customs intelligence and investigation service supervisor.

Ruiz said that the six were temporarily transferred to the Office of the Commissioner.

According to Customs, the import permit used for the cargo was already used in an old sugar allocation, with the consignee identified as Oro-Agritrade Inc. The Thai exporter was listed as Ruamkamlarp Export Co. Ltd. while the local customs broker was identified as a certain Malou Buerano.

Meanwhile, the cargo vessel is being held pending an investigation according to Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Rolen Paulino.

‘Shortage started in 2013’

According to Ateneo de Manila Department of Economics professor Dr. Karlo Fermin Adriano, the country has been experiencing a shortage in the supply of refined sugar since 2013 with the yearly supply shortage pegged at 384,000 metric tons (MT) from 2013 to 2021.

"For 2022, there is an estimated supply deficit of 540,000 MT of refined sugar. Given remaining reserves of 35,000 MT as of August 7 and refined sugar imports of 186,000 MT, the projected refined sugar net supply shortage is 319,000 MT in 2022," Adriano said.

He added that the country has been importing at least 359,000 MT of refined sugar and substitutes from 2013 to 2021, adding that the country’s remaining stocks of raw sugar are projected to be depleted by the end of this month.

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. She advocates for animal welfare and press freedom. Follow her Twitter @polarubyo for regular news and cat postings. The views expressed are her own.

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