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SRA considering supermarket sales of smuggled sugar

THE Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said on Tuesday that low-priced sugar sold at government-supported Kadiwa stores, including shipments seized from smugglers, could be distributed to supermarkets to broaden access to the commodity.

“As we continue to apprehend more smuggled sugar, this will grow. We need to grow the selling side and the distribution network of Kadiwa,” SRA Acting Administrator and Chief Executive Officer Pablo Luis S. Azcona told reporters via Zoom.

The Palace has approved the donation of smuggled sugar seized by the Bureau of Customs to the Department of Agriculture (DA) for sale at Kadiwa stores.

According to Mr. Azcona, major supermarket chains have offered space for Kadiwa goods, broadening their distribution.

Mr. Azcona has said that seized sugar may be sold at P70 per kilogram.

“Our first priority is really the wet markets, then supermarkets and the big chains (will come) after that. We will first satisfy the needs of markets and LGUs (local government units),” he said.

Mr. Azcona said that about 181,500 metric tons (MT) of refined sugar have landed in the Philippines. These shipments form part of 440,000 MT authorized for import by Sugar Order No. 6. 

At least 116,350 MT have been reclassified and earmarked for release onto the markets.

“We’re trying our best to follow the directives to lower the retail price, so we’re converting the imported sugar to domestic as fast as we can, as fast as the importer’s logistics and our inspectors will allow,” he said.

In a statement, National Federation of Sugar Workers Chairperson John Milton Lozande called for continued Senate investigations into what he called “government-sponsored smuggling.”

He cited the “bloated prices” of refined sugar in supermarkets, which he estimated at P136 per kilo despite “recent floods of imports.”

Mr. Azcona said that the farmgate price of raw sugar has been stable at P60 for the last two or three months while supply has improved compared to last year.

“Only the profit margin of wholesalers, retailers, or traders increases, while that of farmers decreases,” he said.

“That’s the part we want to fix as well with the DA, hoping that it won’t be like that because if retail prices are too high, government regulation and price control will kick in, which could lower the farmgate price,” he added.

Mr. Azcona said consultations have concluded and the DA will announce a suggested retail price for refined sugar.

According to DA price monitors, the prevailing market price of refined sugar in Metro Manila as of Tuesday was between P86 and P110, washed sugar P80-P95, and brown sugar P35-P95. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera