Industry stakeholders are urging the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to have a better monitoring system and accountability in releasing production estimates, saying historical inaccuracies affect policies governing the sector.
“Records from SRA itself will show that in the past four crop years except for one, (SRA) estimates have been way off. This is very disconcerting since production estimates influence market forces and determine how SRA crafts its policies,” said Raymond Montinola, spokesperson of Tatak Kalamay (TK) .
TK is a multi-sectoral group composed of producers, small farmers, agrarian reform beneficiaries, mill and farm workers in the sugar industry.
The SRA production estimates for crop year 2019-2020 at 2.096 million metric tons (MT), 23,000 MT higher than the previous crop year’s actual production of 2.073 million MT.
“This seeming penchant of SRA to overestimate production by huge margins instead of reflecting the realities on the ground is extremely harmful to the industry because these figures are also the bases for drafting sugar orders and in determining implementation of the importation program,” Montinola said.
The group said SRA’s inaccurate production estimationt becomes a justification for releasing sugar orders that allow the import of sugar that is being lobbied by the private sector.
Last year, SRA initially projected production at 2.225 million MT, 152,000 MT higher than the actual production of 2.073 million MT.
For crop year 2017-2018, production was projected at 2.380 million MT while actual production just reached 2.083 million MT, a difference of 297,000 MT. Likewise, in crop year 2015-2016, SRA estimated production at 2.270 million MT against actual production of only 2.238 million MT, or 32,000 MT less.
TK said the only exception was crop year 2016-2017 when production reached 2.500 million MT, higher than SRA’s estimate of 2.250 million MT, a time when the issue of high fructose corn syrup affected the industry due to low sugar prices.
The group SRA recently reported a reduction in area planted to sugarcane of 8,000 hectares equivalent to lost production of about 600,000 bags of sugar but was not inputted in this year’s production estimates.