Importing sugar not a sweet deal, won’t lower price, farmers say

Rogelio Bantillo, a sugar farm worker, holds a small pack of sugar he bought at 5 pesos in the retail store. That is all he could afford, he says.
Photo by Elle Bantillo.


MANILA – A farmers group assailed the proposal of the Philippine finance secretary that seeks to further liberalize the country’s sugar industry, saying that allowing more imports will neither lower its increasing prices nor cushion the impact of taxes on sugary beverages.

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said recently that allowing manufacturers of sweetened beverages to import sugar is a “reasonable compromise” as the beverage tax rate is expected to increase per the government’s tax reform program.

But doing so, said Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chairperson Danilo Ramos, “will be the final nail in the coffin of the country’s ailing sugar industry.”

“(Finance) Secretary Diokno even wants to use the Rice Tariffication Law as a model for all agricultural products covered by non-tariff barriers. If that is the case, then we can say goodbye to Philippine sugar soon,” Ramos said.

Read: #TheRealDuterteLegacy | Farmers bear the brunt of Duterte’s rice liberalization policy

Read: Self-sufficiency entails repeal of rice liberalization law

A beverage tax rate of P12 per liter is expected to be imposed under the government’s tax reform program.

As such, government efforts to lower sugar prices have been under scrutiny under the Marcos Jr. administration. Recently, an agriculture undersecretary pointed out that Marcos Jr. himself directed the importation of sugar through “selected traders.”

These are All Asian Countertrade, Sucden Philippines Inc., and Edison Lee Marketing Corporation. All Asian Countertrade, for one, is owned by the Escaler family, which has been in the sugar industry business for a long time.

“While we are importing sugar in record volume, prices of sugar went up by at least 80 percent under Marcos Jr. The retail price of refined sugar in markets went from P54.50 on June 30, 2021, to P90 in June 2022, and more recently, sugar prices have gone up to P110 per kilo,” Ramos said. (RTS) (

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