Farmers say high sugar prices due to issues with distribution, retail

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) needs to address the distribution and retail portions of the sugar supply chain, which are causing prices to rise, a farm industry association said.

High sugar prices are providing a pretext for the government to import sugar, shipments of which need to be “calibrated” in their arrival to avoid causing disruptions, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura Chairman Rosendo O. So added in an appearance on BusinessWorld Live on Thursday.

“High prices of sugar are driven by distribution and retailing issues. The DA should instead convene to address (these) problems,” he said.

The DA, in a memorandum order dated Dec. 20, said it is expediting the import of 64,050 metric tons (MT) of refined sugar to stabilize prices.

Mr. So called for imports be staggered from the January-March period.

“I think… we have just to calibrate the shipments. If the imports are calibrated, we don’t see any problem. But if the whole 64,000 MT comes at once, then we will have some problems. Our farmers are still harvesting in the first part of January,” he said.

Mr. So said the DA should be focusing on the role distribution plays in raising prices.

“December is harvest peak. We have enough stock; the only problem is the price. I think the DA should talk to the millers to stabilize the price,” he said, referring to the part of the supply chain that has the most impact on prices at the moment. “The 64,000 MT of imports will not come in December anyway, so best is to talk with the millers,” Mr. So, said.

In a statement, sugar planters said there is “no reason” for prices to remain high because supply is ample.

“There is no urgent need for imports especially during peak milling season, and there is also no reason why retail prices should remain disproportionately high,” the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, Inc.; Confederation of Sugar Producers Association, Inc. and Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers, Inc. said in a joint statement.

“We would like to reiterate at this time our call for the DA, Sugar Regulatory Administration, and Department of Trade and Industry to guard against excessive retail prices that are not in sync with prevailing millgate prices,” they added.

Mr. So called the DA out of touch with conditions on the ground, saying its planning approach has been influenced by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). He called NEDA’s method “table computation,” without referring to intelligence from the field. — Ashley Erika O. Jose