PHILIPPINES: Sugar users calling for deregulation of import rules

Published: 07/12/2018, 6:15:13 PM

Candy and biscuit makers are asking the government to change its sugar importation rules and allow manufacturers to directly buy the sweetener from other countries in times of shortage, according to the Philippines' Business Mirror newspaper.

An industry source told the BusinessMirror that revamping the government's current rules and regulations on sugar importation would serve confectionery producers better.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol on Wednesday warned traders that he will permit direct importation of sugar if they fail to supply the volume required by manufacturers.

The source said Piñol's plan is not enough, and it is already "moot" to discuss the importation of 200,000 metric tonnes of sugar at this point. What the government should concern itself with, he pointed out, is how it can change the importation scheme so manufacturers may be allowed to directly buy imported sugar.

"It is a moot point [to discuss that] at this time. They will let their recent sugar order to import play out, whatever happens. What we are looking forward to is the future. There has to be a built-in mechanism that if there is a shortage, even industrial [users will be allowed to import]," the source said in a mix of English and Filipino.

"It will hasten the importation because manufacturers will be accredited to do so. [They should also] do away with the conversion, or let the government mandate the conversion rates," he added.

The industry insider argued the government will still oversee the procedure if manufacturers are given the freedom to import the staple in times of shortage.

"It is for our own consumption only. [The] SRA [Sugar Regulatory Administration] can still audit usage in the same way they have controls and monitoring over traders [under the present mechanism]," he explained.

The government has given the green light to import 200,000 tonnes of sugar to supply the volume needed by producers. The industry source said candy and biscuit makers will be buying 15,000 bags, or 750 tonnes, of those to beef up their production.

"When we were asking to be allowed to import, we were basing [it] on 15,000 bags for three months, [including this month]. That is well within the approved quantity for importation," he added.

The Philippine Confectionery Biscuit and Candy Association, a group of 18 candy and biscuit makers, was among those that asked the government to allow manufacturers to import sugar. The group lamented the price of domestic sugar that it reported got as high as PHP2,790 (US$52.2) per 50-kilogram bag, compared to the imported staple at PHP1,300 per Lkg.