Sugar millers to start operations a month earlier

SOME local sugar millers have committed to start milling a month earlier than usual in their bid to prop up the domestic supply of the sweetener.

David Alba, general manager of the Asociacion de Agricultores de La Carlota y Pontevedra (AALCPI), said three sugar mills in Negros Occidental will restart their operations even before the official milling season kicks off.

Alba said Victorias Milling Co. (VMC), Universal Robina Corp. (URC) La Carlota and the Binalbagan Isabela Sugar Company (BISCOM) will immediately reopen and mill early once raw sugar is available.

This, he said, is in response to the call of Negros Occidental Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer to restart their operations immediately amid the continuous decline in sugar supply.

“VMC President Minnie Chua gave her assurance that they are willing to refine when they have the raw sugar supply, and will resume operations by August, or a month earlier than the official opening of the milling season, usually in September, “ he said.

“URC La Carlota also said they are amenable with the Vice Governor’s recommendation, while Joe Chan of BISCOM said that they will start milling in September. BISCOM will also refine once critical mass is reached,” he added.

Ferrer had announced that he will conduct consultation among various sugar refineries amid what he described as “rumors of a sugar shortage” in the country.

“There have been reports that low sugar stocks are due to hoarding, but this is an allegation that needs to be verified first. If indeed true, I will reach out to various refineries in the province if they are willing to open their mills to refine raw sugar in order to address the perceived shortage in the market,” Ferrer said in a previous statement.

The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) recently disclosed that the country’s raw sugar stocks will be depleted by August as demand for the sweetener has outpaced supply due to lower cane production and the delay in import arrivals.

Calculations made by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the SRA showed that the country will run out of refined sugar as early as the last week of July.

Latest estimates made by the SRA indicated that the country’s current raw sugar stocks of 248,195.40 metric tons (MT) will be wiped out by August 4 while the current supply of refined sugar of 109,004.5 MT will be totally consumed by July 29.

Agriculture Undersecretary Fermin D. Adriano said the computation made by the DA’s economic team showed a sugar supply deficit of 203,000 MT and a refined sugar shortfall of about 332,000 MT.

SRA Administrator Hermenegildo R. Serafica said the country is already “eating up” its sugar buffer stock.

Because of this, Serafica said the country will not have any carryover stocks of sugar at the start of the next crop year on September 1.

Historically and ideally, Serafica said the country must have carryover stocks of 250,000 MT of raw sugar and 200,000 MT to 250,000 MT of refined sugar at the end of any given crop year.

“Unfortunately, what is happening is even our carryover stocks from last year are [running out]. So we are now already consuming what would have been our buffer stock because our imports were delayed.” (Related story:

SRA data showed that sugarcane production as of June 12 declined by 16.69 percent year-on-year to 20.778 million metric tons (MMT) while raw sugar output fell by 15.63 percent year-on-year to 1.789 MMT. Refined sugar output, meanwhile, declined by 13.71 percent to 955,058.8 MT from 1.106 MMT last year.

The tightness in sugar supply has resulted in all-time high prices for both raw and refined sugar.

The average retail price of refined sugar in Metro Manila wet markets as of June 23 soared to a fresh record high of P83.79 per kg while its average price in supermarkets reached an all-time high of P74.07 per kg, based on SRA data.

The average retail price of raw sugar in Metro Manila wet markets is now at P64.50 per kg while its quotation in supermarkets averaged P60.22 per kg.

The average retail price of washed sugar in Metro Manila public markets is currently at P61.84 per kg while those sold in supermarkets is at P67.43 per kg.

The average wholesale price of refined sugar as of June 23 reached a new record high of P3,991.43 per 50-kg bag, 73.35 percent higher than last year’s P2,302.5, SRA data showed. Also, the average wholesale price of raw sugar rose by more than half year-on-year to a record P2,846.15 per 50-kg bag.

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