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DTI urged to check sugar price surge

Labor groups and the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) have called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to look into the excessive pricing of sugar in the market when prices at the mill-gate level have already began to dip.

In a roundtable discussion with sugar stakeholders on Monday, Laban Konsyumer president and former trade undersecretary Vic Dimagiba lamented the industry’s “very poor supply chain for basic commodities,” which was causing the huge discrepancy between the mill-gate price and retail price of sugar.

Refined sugar is being sold in the market at P61 a kilo, which translates to P3,100 per 50-kilo bag—the standard volume of sugar when sold to traders.

However, according to SRA board member Emilio Yulo, the mill-gate price of raw sugar for the past two weeks has been set at P1,450 per bag. Ideally, even with the additional costs from processing, transport and packaging, the retail price for refined sugar should be at only P50 a kilo.

National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) secretary general John Milton Lozande added that the price of sugar was even expected to dip further this month until January next year since farmers were pressured to sell their produce during the holiday season.

“We’re [planters] being unfairly blamed for the high prices when we’re just barely surviving. SRA does not have the enforcement power. We need the DTI to be on deck. Where’s DTI? Because this is profiteering. It is their responsibility,” Yulo said.

DTI director for consumer policy Lilian Salonga confirmed her attendance to the roundtable, but organizers said the official backed out a few hours before the event.

Both SRA and industry groups Laban Konsyumer and NFSW recommended the imposition of a suggested retail price (SRP) on sugar as a means to tame prices.

The same measure is currently imposed on rice varieties by the DTI and the Department of Agriculture.

The SRA has tied up with supermarkets to sell sugar at a fixed price. Asked whether the same price points would be recommended for the SRP, Yulo said there must be consultation among stakeholders first, but added that the agency supported the measure.

“An SRP may ensure that everyone who is part of the supply chain will profit. The excessive markup, who gains from that? Certainly not the farmers or consumers,” Dimagiba said.