DTI hands are tied on sugar supply and prices

DTI hands are tied on sugar supply and prices
Man holding sugar packs Photo File from THEPHILBIZNEWS

DTI hands are tied on sugar supply and prices
By Monsi A. Serrano

DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez clarifies informed the public that the Department of Trade and Industry does not have authority when it comes to sugar supply and prices.

The Trade Chief said, “In as much as we would want to manage the supply and regulate the price of sugar to ensure its availability and affordability to consumers, the law does not authorize DTI to perform such function.  Sugar is a basic commodity under the responsibility and jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture (DA)”.

Under the Price Act (Republic Act No. 7581), sugar is a basic good under the jurisdiction of the DA. Monitoring and ensuring the affordability of sugar, and issuance of warnings thereof, all fall within the jurisdiction of said department.

Nonetheless and given a the integrated government approach, DTI has made arrangement to help the DA in the monitoring of the retail markets and refer to DA violations and adverse findings.

This pronouncement comes after a statement made by some Board Members of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to the media that the DTI is not doing its job in monitoring sugar and ensuring that its price is not manipulated by retailers and wholesalers.“We would like to clear once and for all that the DTI can regulate the retail price of sugar in the market only if we are given authority to do so by the DA or the SRA.  Without this authority, DTI can only monitor its supply and availability.  The SRA, as an agency directly supervised by the agriculture department, should know this very well. We thus strongly advise them to take caution in making pronouncements and ensure its accuracy. We assure the consumers that our agency remains faithful to our true mandate.  We have success in managing prices for manufactured products that are in the list of basic necessities and prime commodities, even during the inflationary months last year, because these are under the mandate of DTI,” says Secretary Lopez.

“We would like to clear once and for all that the DTI can regulate the retail price of sugar in the market only if we are given authority to do so by the DA or the SRA.  Without this authority, DTI can only monitor its supply and availability.  The SRA, as an agency directly supervised by the agriculture department, should know this very well. We thus strongly advise them to take caution in making pronouncements and ensure its accuracy. We assure the consumers that our agency remains faithful to our true mandate.  We have success in managing prices for manufactured products that are in the list of basic necessities and prime commodities, even during the inflationary months last year, because these are under the mandate of DTI,” says Secretary Lopez.

The DTI has been assisting the DA in its price monitoring activities for sugar and other basic agricultural products following the directive of President Duterte in August of last year. As a matter of fact, DTI had already made a recommendation to the DA and the SRA as early as July 2018 to impose a suggested retail price on refined sugar at P50/kilo.

Meanwhile, the DTI initiated the Presyong Risonable Program (PRD) in August last year, enabling retailers to directly import sugar and sell these to consumers at prices not higher than P45.00 and P50.00 per kilo for brown and white sugar, respectively.

Currently, these reasonably-priced sugar variants are sold at Robinson’s Supermarket and SM Supermarket branches nationwide. Puregold, meanwhile, is in the process of sourcing sugar for its house brand that will be made available to consumers at P50/kilo very soon.

To date, the SRA has not yet issued a suggested retail price on sugar but despite this, DTI continues to monitor this product and issues Letters of Inquiry to retailers found to be selling sugar at an enormous price higher than P50.00 to find out the trading layers and hope to minimize them.

“With offices and monitors stationed in all regions and provinces of the country, the DTI is highly capable and equipped in the area of price monitoring. Due to the volatility of prices of agricultural goods, it is necessary for the government to do a close watch on this. The DTI is most willing to complement DA´s manpower to include monitoring of sugar among the products under our mandate, as we have already included chicken and other agricultural products, all for the protection of our consumers,” says DTI-Consumer Protection Group (CPG) Undersecretary Atty. Ruth B. Castelo.

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