DA: Sugar imports ‘hurried’ to fight inflation

To help deal with rising inflation, the Department of Agriculture (DA) confirmed Wednesday that it has “speeded up” the sugar import process.

At a press conference in Malacañang, Deputy Agriculture Minister Domingo F. Panganiban said he had authorized three “capable and accredited” firms to push through their imports.

This is despite the fact that the Sugar Regulatory Authority (SRA) has not yet issued a formal Sugar Order (SO) for these procedures.

Last Tuesday, Senator Risa Hontiveros revealed that the DA has allowed All Asian Countertrade, Sucden Philippines Inc. and Edison Lee Marketing Corp. to import 450,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar, presumably at the behest of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. Executive Order signed by Executive Secretary Lucas P. Bersamin.

A batch of sweeteners from these firms arrived on February 1st. 9, 2023.

Hontiveros said the import could be seen as government-sponsored smuggling because it did not go through the normal procedures.

Panganiban confirmed the details of the Hontiveros exposure, stating that said firms were allowed to do so on the condition that they “reduce the price of sugar, sell the product and take on warehousing costs”.

“In response to the president’s direction to fight inflation and create a buffer stock, and given that sugar is one of the components of most commodities, which leads to a consistently high level of inflation, I acted hastily and interpreted the memorandum issued by the FDA. Executive Secretary as an import permit,” said an agriculture spokesman.

“The directive was that they bring it in during the country’s sugar harvest, which will be in February, March and April,” he added.

He emphasized that the President, who is chairman of the Sugar Regulatory Board (SRB), knew about the sugar imports.

“Yes, he was aware. The sugar arrived on February 9. He was duly informed that the sugar had already arrived,” Panganiban said.

Marcos replaced SRB members last year after SO was published without his permission, supposedly to address a sugar shortage.

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