By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Dec 27: A food and beverage (F&B) manufacturer in Sarawak has been granted a permit to import refined sugar directly from overseas, where the price should be lower than that offered by major producers in the peninsula.
Deputy Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Chong Chieng Jen emphasised that this would help manufacturers save tremendously in production and, hopefully, it could be translated to mean cheaper products.
The first successful applicant, he revealed, used about several hundred metric tonnes of refined sugar annually.
“We have received three applications, but the other two were submitted just a week ago … that is after the secretary-general of the ministry had held a meeting to assess and approve the permit,” he told a press conference at the Democratic Action Party (DAP) headquarters here today.
The two applications are still being processed, and Chong assured it would not take too long as such meetings were being held monthly.
This effort by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, he emphasised, was to break the monopoly and protectionism of industries in Malaysia as it was bad for the economy as well as to control the escalating cost of living.
“The new government is taking steps to address this issue, especially the Competition Commission, one of the agencies under my ministry, which is seriously looking into several businesses that have been monopolised in the country as well as protectionism industry.”
One of the problems contributing to escalating cost of living, he pointed out, was the monopoly policies implemented by the previous government.
“As such, we are making gradual efforts to break some of the monopolies that have impacted the prices of goods and foods in the country.
“After months of work, we have succeeded in fighting for the rights to open up the sugar industry. Now, we have one successful applicant who has obtained a permit to import sugar from overseas.”
Currently, the international price for raw sugar is about RM1.10 per kilo, according to Chong.
“After the raw sugar has been processed to become refined sugar, about RM0.50 to RM0.70 will be added to the cost, depending on the efficiency of the refinery,” he explained.
Before this, Sarawak’s F&B manufacturers have to import from the peninsula, where there are a few sugar refineries. However, these refineries are basically owned by two main groups because of cross-shareholdings.
“F&B in Sarawak purchasing refined sugar from Peninsular Malaysia get about RM2.70 per kilo, some of them RM2.80. The reason being the volume is small as compared to the F&B sector in Peninsular Malaysia, so these refineries adopt the ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ attitude because there are no alternative sources,” he continued.
“The annual consumption of sugar for general and F&B in Sarawak is about 140,000 metric tonnes.”
Chong, thus, encouraged more F&B manufacturers and players in Sarawak to apply for sugar import permits in order to get their supplies at lower prices from countries such as Brazil, Thailand and Vietnam.
“They can write to me directly or to the Sarawak director or the headquarters.” — DayakDaily