FINDING the “sweet spot” which will determine the right volume of sugar imports that will protect producers and consumers must be “solely based on science and insulated from lobby and politics,” Deputy Speaker and Batangas Representative Ralph Recto said.
Recto said sugar demand and supply forecast should be subjected to external review “and not by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) and the Department of Agriculture alone.”
“Multi-agency dapat. Is NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority), for example, on board in determining production and consumption outlook?” Recto said.
Subjecting sugar data to third-party vetting, Recto said, “will not only strengthen the integrity of projections made but will hush down unfair claims of data manipulation.”
Under Section 9 of Republic Act 10659, or the Sugarcane Industry Development Act of 2015, the SRA is mandated to establish a “supply chain monitoring system” that will track the volume of “sugarcane at farms to refined sugar at stores.”
To ensure sufficiency of supply, SRA’s monitoring covers registered firms from distilleries that use sugarcane, to warehouses of sugar importers, to sugar stockpiles of food processors.
Recto said, “one foundation of any commodity outlook is the projected demand”, as this is used as the basis for import plans.
He recalled, “instances in the past when the computation of the annual per capita consumption of rice was allegedly inflated to justify jacking up import volume.”
“Sa bigas, itaas mo lang ang per capita consumption ng isang kilo, tataas ang demand by 2.2 million sacks kada taon,” he said.
“It can be tweaked in a manner that it barely moves the needle, but it will have a tectonic effect on supply and therefore import intentions,” he said.
“As a general rule, para sa isang food importer tulad ng Pilipinas, kailangan maingat sa mga datos, kasi mas masahol pa sa price manipulation ang data manipulation,” he said.
“What I am proposing is that a group of experts, from the academe perhaps, should take a second look at our food import projections, not just on sugar, but on all commodities, so that we will not be importing more than what is needed,” Recto said.