BBM plans to import 150,000 MT of sugar by October.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said there may be a need to import sugar in October, but it will be no more than half of the 300,000 metric tons contained in a failed illegal order issued by the Sugar Regulatory Administration.

“Maybe in October our domestic supply will already be insufficient and we may have to import, but it will only be a little,” he said in a vlog posted on his Facebook page.

“It won’t be as much as the 300,000 metropolitan tons they advertise. Perhaps 150,000 metric tons will already be more than enough for the whole year. In my opinion, we have significantly reduced the import of sugar,” said Marcos, who is also head of the Ministry of Agriculture and chairman of the SRA.

Marcos said he would have preferred to cut the import, but is forced to do so to avoid a price spike if supply remains low.

“While we are still improving our production, we are forced to import but we have to make sure not to over-import,” he said.

Besides sugar, Marcos said he is also considering government-to-government fertilizer purchases to temper rising urea prices in the country.

“The high price of urea and fertilizers has become a big problem,” he said.

The president said the Department of Trade and Industry was already conducting dialogues with fertilizer traders to “control” urea prices.

The government also plans to issue ‘e-vouchers’ for fertilizers to help farmers.

“My dream is simple: that farmers have a sustainable income so that the next generation is encouraged to continue this industry. My dream is that no Filipino will go hungry,” Marcos added.

The House of Representatives is today holding a hearing on the failed decision to import 300,000 tonnes of sugar.

“Good governance requires transparency and accountability,” said San Jose del Monte, representative of Bulacan Florida Robes, which chairs the committee on good governance and public accountability.

She said they “want to be enlightened” about the illegal order issued by the SRA which President Marcos rejected.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, for his part, said he would give a privileged speech today to demand the resignation of other SRA officials who took part in the illegal order.

“Those who were involved in this illegal sugar order should resign from their positions,” Zubiri said.

Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, who signed the decree, has already tendered his resignation.

Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said Sunday that agricultural hoarding, profiteering and exploitative cartels should be considered economic sabotage.

Salceda, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said he would table a bill to that effect on Monday, subjecting perpetrators to life imprisonment and heavy fines.

“It is time to strengthen the provisions of the Price Act as they apply to agricultural products. There is no more despicable economic crime than knowingly depriving people of food. It is the lowest depth of social evil,” he said.

According to Salceda’s proposal, hoarding or profiting from sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, fish and cruciferous vegetables, in their raw state, or who have undergone the simple processes of preparation or preservation for the market, with a minimum amount of 1 million pesos, or rice, with a minimum amount of 10 million pesos, will be considered economic sabotage.

The bill would amend Republic Act No. 10845, or the Anti-Smuggling Farm Act of 2016, by adding offenses defined in Section 5 of the Pricing Act.

“I want to give the government the legal basis to attack hoarders and cartels, and punish them with the full weight of the law. I especially think that there is something bitter going on in the sugar sector,” he said.

He cited higher than usual withdrawals of imported sugar, lower than usual transfers of crushed raw sugar to refiners, as possible “smoking guns” of abuse in the sugar market.

“Factories only transferred 14,000 MT of raw sugar to refineries from September 2021 to today, compared to 86,000 MT in the same period a year ago,” he said.

“Another number doesn’t make sense to me. While demand for raw sugar was down, demand for refined sugar was actually up, suspiciously due to faster withdrawals from import stocks,” he added.

“I suspect abuse in the sugar market. Planters say the harvest hasn’t shrunk as much as the market suggests. Production was only down 16%, but prices were up 90% year-on-year. If something looks, smells and feels nasty, it probably is,” he said.

He said President Marcos can form a task force on agricultural hoarding, similar to what President Rodrigo Duterte did with rice in 2018.

Senator Imee Marcos, at war with the abortive sugar import, said Sebastian’s resignation was not enough.

On Sunday, she attacked the Department of Agriculture (DA) plan to import white onions due to an alleged supply shortage.

“Let this serve as a fair warning to all concerned,” Senator Marcos said. “We are aware of the current modus operandi. It’s the same old story. It just keeps repeating itself,” she said.

“First, they smuggle. Then they create a shortage and produce a legitimate import permit,” she said. “By next week, I’m confident smuggled onions will flood the market covered by a ‘legitimate’ import order of gargantuan proportions.”

At the height of the sugar import fiasco last week, she revealed that some 36 million pesos worth of onions had been wrongly declared as ‘spring rolls’ and ‘plain churros’ and had been confiscated from Misamis Oriental. .

The senator said she wasn’t convinced there was a shortage because the DA didn’t present any hard data to back it up, “just general assertions that the warehouses we inspected were really empty. “.

Also on Sunday, Magsasaka party list representative Argel Cabatbat said on Sunday that those who recommended Sebastian’s appointment should not be allowed to nominate anyone to replace him.

On Saturday, Malacañang defended Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez, whose verbal order to create a sugar import scheme appeared to be misunderstood and became the basis for the SRA’s illegal order.

Publicist Trixie Cruz-Angeles said the import plan will give them information. It was not an import order.

Sebastian, who signed Sugar Order No. 4, resigned on Friday.

The unauthorized signing of the order on behalf of the president is still under investigation, Cruz-Angeles said.

“The president is objective. He lets the investigation proceed without his interference. The investigation must be fair,” she said.

Sugar grower groups backed the president’s decision to reject the import plan.

On Friday, the Asociacion de Agricultores de La Carlota y Pontevedra Inc. and the Multipurpose Cooperative of La Carlota Mill District said it was advised against importing additional sugar as the milling season is about to begin and will increase. the current offer.

The United Sugar Growers Federation, the country’s largest sugar federation, also hoped there would be a reorganization of the DA and SRA following the incident.

Rachel J. Bradford