Sugar industry, small farmers hail withdrawal of Coca Cola case vs SRA

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(Reuters)

MANILA, Philippines — The sugar industry, including small farmers, hailed the decision of beverage firm Coca Cola Philippines to drop its case against the Sugar Regulatory Administration for regulating the importation of high-fructose corn syrup.

The Sugar Alliance of the Philippines called Coca Cola’s announcement at a congressional hearing Tuesday that it has withdrawn the case questioning the validity of Sugar Order No. 3 a “small victory.”

Sugar Order No. 3 allows the SRA to classify HFCS as either “Class C” (reserve), “B” (domestic) or “D” (world market) sugar. Thus means it can only be used by local beverage and food manufacturing companies if it is classified as “B.”

The order also imposes a fee of P30 per metric ton on imported HFCS.

The Sugar Board, which governs the SRA, issued the order in response to complaints from local sugar producers that the higher consumption of HFCS by beverage companies caused a drop in domestic sugar prices of as much as P400 per 50-kilo bag to its current price of P1,200-1,300 per bag.

HFCS, which is derived from corn starch, is mostly imported from China at zero tariff.

Over the last five years, 919,176 metric tons of HFCS have been imported, statistics from the Bureau of Customs show.

Coca Cola uses 90 percent HFCS and 10 percent sugar.

Meanwhile, Coca Cola is itself facing charges of smuggling before the BOC for allegedly smuggling in P70.1 million worth of HFCS without clearance from the SRA as provided for by Sugar Order No. 3.

The complaint was filed by Edgardo Lumanog Jr., Sugar Anti-Smuggling Organization deputy chief.