Hontiveros renews call for more sugar importers to reduce local prices
MANILA, Philippines — The price of sugar in the market is unlikely to drop to its previous low level despite the order issued by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos to import an additional 150,000 metric tons (MT), according to Senator Risa Hontiveros.
During an interview, Hontiveros expressed her belief that sugar prices will remain high as long as the government restricts sugar imports to only three companies.
She stated, “According to reports, the President instructed the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) board members to import additional sugar. The President seems to be solving the wrong problem.”
Hontiveros emphasized, “The problem is not a sugar shortage. The problem is that three traders have cornered the buying and selling of imported sugar. It would be helpful if, like before, the SRA allows more importers.”
She added that the existing monopoly prevents competition, triggers inflation, and limits the availability of affordable sugar for households and businesses.
“Based on our data, 70% of imported and domestic sugar for 2023 is controlled by these three companies. Within the first three months, a significant portion of domestic production not controlled by All Asian [Countertrade], Sucden [Philippines], and Edison Lee [Marketing Corp] has already been depleted. We are witnessing the effects now – sugar prices are not returning to their previous low levels,” Hontiveros stated.
Hontiveros further highlighted the severe impact of the current setup on local food and beverage manufacturers, which employ thousands of Filipinos. She stressed that the sugar imported by the three companies for industrial use is “the most expensive in the world.”
“The imported sugar from these three companies that is being used by industrial users is the most expensive in the world,” she said.
Hontiveros expressed her support for industrial users to directly import sugar, especially those in the food manufacturing sector, as they create job opportunities for Filipinos.
“This is the plea of industrial users – to be allowed to import sugar in quantities that meet their needs for condensed milk, biscuits, soft drinks, and others. These products from our food manufacturers provide employment for many Filipino workers,” she said.
Regarding opposition from certain groups in the Visayas to the idea of direct sugar imports by industrial users, Hontiveros stated that the Senate’s Blue Ribbon Committee hearings will provide clarity on the matter.
“Apparently, some organizations in the Visayas are against this plan. Perhaps these concerns will be addressed once the Blue Ribbon Committee hearings begin,” she said.