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SRA open to possible probe on high sugar prices

The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) is open to any investigation that may be conducted in connection with the high cost of sugar in some areas, acting Administrator Pablo Luis Azcona said Wednesday.

Interviewed on Unang Balita, Azcona explained that sugar prices go as high as P136/kilo in select stores as retailers were the ones who dictated the price. He said there are other brands of sugar sold at lower prices.

“Yes po. Actually, ‘yung price watch and monitoring of the SRP (suggested retail price) ay hindi na sa SRA ‘yun. Ibang agencies ‘yun sa gobyerno,” he said when asked if the SRA is amenable to any investigation on high sugar prices.

(Yes. Actually, the SRA has no control over the price watch and monitoring of the SRP. That is the job of other government agencies.)

“What we strive to do is to maintain the balance between the supply and our demand to protect the consumers na hindi bigyan ng rason ang negosyante na itaas na ang price dahil sapat ang suplay [by not giving traders reason to raise the price because the supply is sufficient],” he added.

“At the same time, very important, is to protect our farmers na ‘yung farmgate price na P60 ma-maintain din [that the farmgate price of P60 is maintained].”

Azcona said that the country’s stock of refined sugar — both local and imported — is 132% better than last year. This, he said, accumulated to around 385,000 metric tons.

As for raw sugar, the stock improved to 476,000 metric tons — about 18% to 19% better than a year before.

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday questioned the rise of sugar retail prices to P136/kilo, saying the commodity could be sold at only P86 to P90/kilo.

“Bakit tumaas ang presyo sa halip na bumaba? Bakit may patong na P40 hanggang P60 na di maipaliwanag? Iyan ay resulta na patuloy na pag-corner ng tatlong importer sa suplay ng asukal sa bansa,” she said.

(Why are the sugar prices going up instead of down? Why is there an addition of P40 to P60 that cannot be explained? That is the result of the three importers continuing to control the country's sugar supply.)

The lawmaker said retail price control is not the solution to the problem but dismantling the "cartel" that controls sugar supply.

“Baka sa halip na price control sa retail ay price monitoring at control sa wholesale ang dapat pagtuunan ng pansin ng pamahalaan, dahil sa wholesale price nakapagdi-dikta ang makapangyarihang kartel,” Hontiveros added.

(Instead of price control in retail, maybe the government should focus on price monitoring and control in wholesale, because the cartels could control the wholesale price.)  —KBK, GMA Integrated News