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DA, DTI cooperate to fix sugar supply, price woes

April 25, 2019

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) on Wednesday said it would coordinate with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to resolve supply and price regulation issues hounding the local sugar industry.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol told The Manila Times he had already discussed this with Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.

“I have talked to Sec Lopez. We will work together,” Piñol said in a text message.

“[Last] Monday afternoon, we talked by phone and agreed to help one another instead of pointing fingers,” he added.

His statement came after Lopez clarified that sugar, as a basic commodity, is under the jurisdiction of the DA. Lopez was responding to repeated calls from the board members of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) for the DTI to intervene.

SRA board members Roland Beltran, representing the millers, and Dino Yulo for the planters earlier urged the DTI to “do your job and take a closer look at who are manipulating the market.” They claimed the high prices of retail sugar, which has breached P60 per kilo, were being manipulated by wholesalers and retailers.

Lopez said Republic Act 7581 or the Price Act states that monitoring and ensuring the affordability of sugar is under the responsibility of the DA, noting that the DTI can regulate the retail price of sugar if the DA or the SRA gives the authority to do so.

For its part, the DTI said it would closely coordinate with the DA to boost the agencies’ joint price monitoring of sugar in the retail markets, including supermarkets.

“DTI monitoring can also report adverse findings to DA for action, either notice of violations or filing of cases,” Lopez, who is in China for an official trip, said.

The DTI has been assisting the DA in its price monitoring activities for sugar and other basic agricultural products since August last year. In July 2018, DTI made a recommendation to the DA and the SRA to impose a suggested retail price (SRP) on refined sugar at P50 per kilo.

Meanwhile, Beltran said the SRA and DA do not regulate prices which are supposed to be driven or dictated by market forces.

“That is the law of supply and demand,” he said.

“[W]hen prices appear to be manipulated or not driven by market forces then government must act and determine whether there is in fact price manipulation and appropriate criminal charges lodged against the suspects,” he explained.

“[The] SRP is not synonymous with price control. Thus, prices can be manipulated by unscrupulous traders despite the SRP.”

The SRA said the country’s sugar stocks reached a record high of 1.1 million metric tons as of end-March. It said there is no way for the price of the sweetener to rise in the retail market. The volume was 143 percent more compared to the stock balance in the same period last year.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net


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