THE Sugar Alliance of the Philippines (SAP) has called on the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to investigate the effect of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) importation on the continued decline of sugar prices. In a letter addressed to SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica, the SAP linked the continuing importation of HFCS to the prevailing low prices of sugar. The group also requested the SRA to hold approval of the importation of HFCS until such time that the issue is properly investigated. In its regular board meeting on November 23, the SRA Board created a committee to investigate the cause of the decline of prices, Serafica said. In the meeting, the board resolved to hold in abeyance requests of food processors to import sugar until the committee has concluded its investigation. The sugarcane sector is facing a major hurdle as prices continue to drop because of unabated importation of HFCS from China.
According to the SRA, mill-site prices of sugar fell to P1,255 per 50 kilogram bag, down 29.1 percent from P1,770 in the previous crop year. The drop in prices was largely traced to the higher sugar inventory as a result of imported HFCS. Many industrial users, including Coca-Cola Femsa Philippines and Pepsi Co., are shifting to cheaper alternatives like HFCS, which has zero duty compared with similar imports from the United States.
Sugarcane producers estimated that HFCS imports have displaced 13 percent of locally-produced refined sugar. From 2011 to 2016, beverage makers and food processors imported almost 800,000 metric tons of HFCS, displacing the demand for 23 million 50 kg bags of local sugar and depriving the sugar industry of P35.2 billion in potential income. In crop-year 2016 to 2017, imported HFCS drove down sugar prices from more than P1,800 per 50 kg bag to less than P1,400 as of the first quarter of 2017–translating to potential revenue losses of about P20 billion for the current crop year.