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‘Ber months to usher in mixed retail prices for salt, sugar products

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With the “Ber” months signaling the holidays approaching, prices of salt are going up while the prices of sugar are falling, the Department of Trade and Industry said Thursday.

SWEET AND SALTY. A worker arranges sugar packs priced at P70 per kilo — a substantial markdown from a high of P110 per kilo — at a supermarket along Judge Jimenez Street, Barangay Kamuning, Quezon City on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022. Robert Oswald Alfiler

DTI Undersecretary Ruth Castelo said the agency approved an increase in the suggested retail prices of salt after prices of the commodity went unchanged for six years while denying there was a shortage of salt supplies in the country.

In its bulletin, the Trade Department approved upward movements in prices of iodized rock salt to P21.75 for 500 grams and P23.00 for one kilogram.

In terms of iodized salt, the suggested retail price for a 100-gram pack is set at P4.50; 250 grams ranging from P9.00 to P11.75; 500 grams ranging from P16.00 to P21.25; and one kilogram at P29.00.

“On the issue of supply, we have sufficient because we have a lot… We have three or four large companies that produce salt, and we also have imports,” Castelo told a public briefing.

On sugar, Castelo said several small retailers have also expressed their intent to sell white refined sugar at P70 per kilogram, following commitments made by major supermarket chains.

“They are most welcome to join us if they can sell white refined sugar at P70 per kilo, but the government does not provide benefits or assistance to the three retail chains mentioned,” she said.

SM Supermarket, Robinsons Supermarket, and Puregold all earlier committed to selling sugar at P70 per kilogram, amid the high prevailing prices at the market.

The latest data from the Department of Agriculture (DA) show that prices of sugar in Metro Manila stand at P95 per kilogram for refined sugar, P75 for washed sugar, and P70 for brown sugar as of August 24.

Castelo explained that the retail chains sell at lower prices as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, and the DTI only promotes them given the lower prices.

In Cavite, a man rakes salt at a warehouse as the Trade Department approved a price hike for the seasoning. AFP

“If they are okay with it, they can signify their intention so they can be included in the program, and we can also help promote them. The incentive is we promote their stores so the public can go and buy from them,” she said.

Meanwhile, the government gave owners of warehouses found storing sugar in bulk time to explain and show proof their stocks were legally imported before being allowed to release the sugar to the market, Malacanang said Thursday.

In a statement, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said the findings of the investigation on warehouses found storing thousands of sacks of sugar will determine the government’s next move on this issue.

She said the government will need to hear the side of warehouse owners and consignees of sugar found in a series of inspections first before deciding to release these sugar supplies to the market.

Malacanang said the latest discovery of sugar stocked in warehouses was found on Deparo St., Caloocan City, and inside a warehouse in Quezon City.

The Department of Agriculture had said it would focus on the country’s salt supply, just as it is responding to current sugar supply issues.

Salt production is “small” in some regions, Agriculture Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban earlier noted.

The DA earlier disclosed its plan to improve local production of salt to stop the country’s dependence on imports. It noted that the Philippines imports about 550,000 metric tons of salt every year, or approximately 93 percent of the country’s salt requirement.

On sugar, the Office of the Press Secretary said the Bureau of Customs, armed with a letter of authority that allows it to conduct visitorial powers, “forcibly opened” the warehouse in Caloocan city after the owners and caretaker refused to cooperate.

Discovered were “hundreds of bags of smuggled rice and sugar,” OPS said.

“Customs personnel learned that the warehouse containing the contraband agricultural products is owned by Melissa Chua and Benito Chua. It was not immediately known how the two Chuas are related,” the Press Secretary said.

The BOC padlocked the warehouse and gave its owner half a month to prove that the thousands of sacks of sugar were legal.

The owners of the warehouse said the sugar had import permits and clearance from the BOC and the Sugar Regulatory Administration.

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