Thursday, March 16, 2017

Don't “thank” the Domestic Trade Minister for raising sugar prices by “only 11 sen” - facts proved that the BN Government has allowed Malaysia’s sugar duopoly to make super-profits over the past 2 years

Two days ago, Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin said Malaysians should be thankful for the minimal hike in sugar price.  He said the hike, at only 3.8%, was minor compared with what was proposed.

This followed the ministry’s recent announcement that the new price of coarse granulated white sugar from March 1 onwards was RM2.95 per kg, up from the previous RM2.84.

“In fact, when we did the calculation, the millers had been asking us to increase the price to RM3.20, which is a jump of 40 sen. But from our calculation, we took the average and set it at the minimum of 11 sen,” he told reporters at the Dewan Rakyat.

“Malaysians should thank me instead of being angry with me,” Hamzah said.

An arrogant statement like that by the Minister is an open invitation for a fact-check.  In keeping with the current fad of “fact-checks” as epitomised by Malaysia Communications and Multimedia Commission’s (MCMC) “Sebenarnya” portal, I dug up the historical prices of global raw sugar prices, Malaysia government’s “Long-Term Contracts” (LTC) for raw sugar supply, our historical subsidies for processed white sugar and the Manufacturer’s white sugar price (before subsidy). (Please refer to table attached.)

Prior to 2015, Malaysia’s two sole sugar manufacturers purchased raw sugar via Malaysia government’s LTC for imported raw sugar supply.  For 2009-2011, the fixed raw sugar price was US$17.50 per 100lbs, while for 2012-2014, the price per 100lbs was US$26.00.

The LTC raw sugar purchasing system was subsequently abolished and manufacturers purchased import their raw sugar supply directly based on global market raw sugar prices.

I have also calculated the Manufacturer’s white sugar price, which is the sum of retail white sugar price plus any subsidy paid by the Government.  This will be the price that the two manufacturers receive per kilogram of sugar sold.

Very simply, I put the manufacturer’s raw sugar purchasing price and the processed sugar selling price historical trends from 2010 to date together in a single chart as shown in Chart A below.

The Chart itself speaks a thousand words.

Between January 2012 to December 2014, the manufacturer’s raw sugar supply price was US$26 per 100lbs.  They could sell processed sugar at RM2.84/kg and had no problems making a profit.

The question that needs to be asked is, today, the global market raw sugar price is approximately US$18.16 per 100lbs, why is it that the BN government see it fit to further increase the retail sugar price to RM2.95/kg?

Even after accounting for the differences in exchange rate over the period of time, the price of sugar should have been reduced, and not increased!

Chart A:


Worse, if you look at the raw sugar supply price in 2015, it dipped for the manufacturers immediately from US$26 in December 2014 to US$15.06 in January 2015, and further to a low of only US$10.67 in August 2015, why did the Government allow the manufacturers to continue making astronomical profits at RM2.84/kg?

Why hadn’t the Government reduced the price of sugar drastically in 2015 when the raw sugar supply price hit rock bottom?  As a comparison, even when the manufacturers bought raw sugar for US$17.50 prior between 2009 and 2011, the manufacturer’s sugar price was only between RM2.05 and RM2.50.

The data proved beyond doubt that there is absolutely no need for Malaysians to “thank” the Domestic Trade Minister as demanded by Dato’ Seri Hamzah Zainuddin.  Instead, Malaysians should perhaps be cursing and swearing at the Minister and the BN Government for stupidly (or perhaps intentionally) allowing the two Malaysian sugar manufacturers for profiteering via a Government-imposed selling price at the expense of ordinary suffering Malaysians.

We call upon the Government to not only withdraw the recent price hike of 11 sen for the retail price of sugar, but instead further lower the ceiling price from RM2.84/kg to reflect the substantially lower global price of raw sugar over the past 2 years.  This should be done immediately without any compensation or subsidies paid to the manufacturers.
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