Competitiveness concerns raised if government fails to stabilize sugar prices 

THE Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) raised the possibility of falling behind in regional competitiveness if sugar prices do not stabilize, producing knock-on effects on the price of other food products.

“We are calling on our government to assure our food manufacturing industry that there is enough and sufficient supply of sugar at reasonable cost to be competitive with our neighbors in ASEAN,” PCCI President George T. Barcelon said in a statement over the weekend.

“The government is cognizant of shortages from sugar millers and thus allowed limited imports. The lower cost of sugar will help mitigate inflation when enough quantities are allocated for local food and beverage sectors. The employment and economic activities are crucial for our country and her citizens,” he added.  

Mr. Barcelon is seeking a meeting with Private Sector Advisory Council Strategic Convenor Sabin M. Aboitiz to discuss concerns regarding the high price of sugar and its impact on the domestic food manufacturing and processing industry.

According to Mr. Barcelon, the price of sugar ranges from P85 to P115 per kilogram, much higher than the prevailing world market price equivalent to P32 to P35 per kilogram.

He added that the industry is seeking a sugar allocation that would be used “exclusively” in food manufacturing to allow the industry to “compete with ASEAN counterparts selling various food items.”

“The industry requests an allocation exclusively as input in food production so that our food manufacturers can compete with our ASEAN counterparts in selling various food items,” Mr. Barcelon said.

Maria Angela N. Esquivel, Alaska Milk Corp. corporate affairs director, said separately at a media roundtable in Makati City last week that the company could raise prices if sugar prices remain high.

“With the continuous challenge (from) the rising cost of sugar, we are (trying to strengthen) our earnings model… via price increases where needed, continuous supply chain optimization, and changing the current business model to be fit for purpose,” Ms. Esquivel said.

Ms. Esquivel said Alaska uses refined sugar in sweetened condensed milk and milk powders.

“Our need is smaller compared to beverage manufacturers. But the sugar available locally is expensive,” she said.

In February, the Sugar Regulatory Administration issued Sugar Order No. 6, which authorized imports of 440,000 metric tons (MT) of refined sugar.  

Under the order, 100,000 MT of refined sugar are required to arrive in the country “as soon as possible” with another 100,000 MT arriving before April 1, both for consumer use. The remaining 240,000 MT will serve as a buffer stock, which will also be released to consumers as needed.   

On March 28, the SRA said that 89,000 MT out of the 440,000 MT has landed in the Philippines. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave