By JAsper Y. Arcalas, August 2 2019; Business Mirror

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THE Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has approved the importation of 250,000 metric tons (MT) of refined sugar to plug the shortfall in supply and avert possible price increases of the sweetener as the country enters off-milling season.

The SRA issued Sugar Order No. 5 which authorized the contry’s second sugar import program for crop year 2018-2019, which ends this August 31.

SRA explained that the importation would plug the shortfall in domestic production to meet the rising demand for sugar by the domestic market.

“With the projected increase in the demand for raw and refined sugar coupled with the law production of domestic sugar, it has given rise to a situation where prices of sugar may spike during the off-season and spilling over into the start of next crop year,” SRA said in the SO which was published on its website Thursday evening.

“There is a need for a timely government intervention by way of importation in order to maintain a balanced supply and demand of sugar thereby preventing unreasonable increase in prices that shall address inflation,” SRA added.

The SRA said sugarcane industry stakeholders, recognizing the need to increase domestic supply, have endorsed the importation program.

The importation program is open to all industrial users, including food, confectionaries, biscuits, beverage manufacturers, consumers and end-users such as retailers, traders, and repackers.

Sugar producers such as sugar mills, planters’ associations or cooperatives and sugar federations may also import under the program.

Of the total allowable importation volume, the SRA allocated 100,000 MT for industrial users while the remaining 150,000 MT will be for consumers, end-users and sugar producers.

The SRA has also limited the volume that an eligible importer could bring in to the country under the program.

Every eligible consumer, end-user, and sugar producer may only import a maximum volume of 12,500 MT while eligible industrial users may bring in 15,000 MT each.

The importation program shall be allocated to eligible importers on a first-come, first serve basis.

“The SRA shall require up to fifty percent of the total volume of importation or up to fifty percent per approved allocation per eligible importer, whichever is practicable, to arrive in the country not later than September 30, 2019 and the remaining volume on or before October 31, 2019,” the SO read.