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Asia Minute: Sugar shortage in the Philippines driving prices higher

Sodas and energy drinks are stacked and line the shelves of a grocery store.
Seth Perlman
/
AP
FILE - Sodas and energy drinks are stacked and line the shelves of a grocery store.

The Philippines is facing a sugar crisis. There’s a shortage — and it’s an issue that’s gone to the very top of the country’s new government.

The top soft drink makers in the Philippines have put out a rare joint statement, confirming they’re all running short of refined sugar.

The makers of Coke, Pepsi and RC Cola all say they’re working with the government “to address the situation.”

Government officials had seen this coming.

Last December, a powerful typhoon swept through cane fields and pounded sugar refineries.

Earlier this year, officials at the Sugar Regulatory Administration approved a plan to import hundreds of thousands of metric tons of refined sugar.

But local sugar producers feared that would drive down prices — and they got a temporary restraining order to block the imports.

Last week, a notice went up on a government website announcing the Sugar Regulatory Board had authorized the import of 300,000 tons of sugar.

The head of that board is President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. But a presidential spokesperson said Marcos had never agreed to that.

An investigation is underway, and at least two government officials involved in the announcement have now resigned.

Marcos says the Philippines may import a smaller amount of sugar in October — if supplies are still low.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry warns that may be too late to prevent price hikes for processed food and drinks.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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