Govt mulls breaking sugar import monopoly

Policies are being reviewed to ensure consistency with the changes in world sugar prices

Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

The government could liberalise the import of sugar, breaking monopolies and allowing market forces to dictate the price, or even push the retail price of the sweetener lower.

Presently, sugar imports into the country require the Approved Permit (AP) which is issued by the government.

Deputy Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Chong Chieng Jen said the move to review sugar import licences, which had dragged on for decades, is seriously being considered by the government to reduce the burden on consumers.

“The retail price of sugar is based on the world’s raw sugar prices and takes into account administrative cost, refinery operations, logistics and manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer margins,” Chong told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday. He said the existing sugar retail price and importing licence or AP policies are being reviewed to ensure the sweetener retail price is consistent with the changes in world sugar prices.

He was responding to a question from Labis MP Pang Hok Liong who asked the government whether the ministry would issue more APs to bring down the price of sugar to RM1.50 per kg or lower.

Presently, sugar prices in Malaysia are among the lowest among Asean countries, said Chong.

“For example in Indonesia, sugar is sold at RM3.58 per kg, Vietnam at RM4.41 and Singapore at RM4.65.

“Taking into account the costs involved as stated, the ministry believes that it is impossible for the retail price of white sugar to be reduced to RM1.50 per kg,” he said.

In Malaysia, the white coarse sugar is sold at RM2.95 per kg and RM3.05 for white granulated sugar.

Chong said there are currently five companies that are refining imported raw sugar.

Among the major sugar producers in Malaysia are MSM Malaysia Holdings Bhd in Prai, Penang; Central Sugars Refinery Sdn Bhd in Shah Alam, Selangor; Gula Padang Terap Sdn Bhd in Padang Terap, Kedah; and MSM Perlis Sdn Bhd in Chuping, Perlis.