By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said they have no control over prices of sugar in the local market.
SRA acting administrator Pablo Luis Azcona made the clarification after several lawmakers complained about why sugar prices in the domestic market are still high despite the recent importation of the commodity.
Azcona said the SRA has no control over sugar retailers in the markets and grocery stores.
The administrator also told President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. that the only ones who profit from the high market prices are the retailers.
He added that there is enough supply of sugar in the market.
Azcona is already pushing for a suggested retail price (SRP) of P85 per kilo of sugar, amid reports of selling prices as high as P110.
He said that since there is a sufficient supply of sugar, retailers could reduce the price.
However, the implementation of the SRP depends on the local government units.
In June, Azcona urged several government agencies, particularly the local government units, to implement the SRP of P85 per kilo, saying the SRA has no power to enforce it.
He added they have been conducting consultations with some sugar stakeholders to prepare for the next crop year.
In the previous crop season, sugar mills ended their operations early due to a lack of bagasse, a dry pulpy fibrous material which remains after sugarcane was crushed to extract their juice, which is used as fuel in the boilers of sugar factories to generate electricity and steam.
Meanwhile, the SRA also seeks to have a budget of P2 billion next year, as mandated under the Sugar Industry Development Program fund for 2024.
Azcona said the proposed budget for SRA next year is currently at P1 billion and they want it to be hiked.
Under Republic Act 10659, or the Sugarcane Industry Development Act of 2015, the Department of Budget and Management should allocate P2 billion a year to promote the competitiveness of the local sugarcane industry and improve the income of the sugar farmers and workers through improved productivity, product diversification, job generation, and increased efficiency of sugar mills.
Based on the initially proposed P1 billion budget for 2024, the funds were divided into the following allocations: P485 million for farm-to-mill roads, P15 million for bridge construction, P150 million for bloc farms program, P150 million for a socialized credit program, P150 million for research and development, and P50 million for human resource development program.
Earlier, the SRA proceeded with the reopening of the milling season on September 1 to ensure higher yield and increased revenue for small sugar farmers.
Azcona said their declaration was in response to the letter from the Sugar Council — composed of Confederation of Sugar Producers’ Associations Inc., National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, and Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers — asking the SRA to retain the start of the milling operations in August.
He added they would allow sugar canes to grow longer to have a better yield, considering the advantages it could bring to farmers./ With reports from PNA / DGB, WDJ