There is no sugar monopoly in Malaysia, say refiners

KUALA LUMPUR: MSM Malaysia Holdings Bhd and Central Sugars Refinery Sdn Bhd (CSR) have clarified that there is no sugar monopoly in Malaysia and that the price of the commodity is controlled by the government and is among the lowest in the world.

The two refiners said the local players operate within a challenging business environment to ensure a steady supply of sugar to Malaysian consumers while maintaining a decent sugar stockpile for the nation.

"The facts to date, while the costs of doing business have increased, such as minimum wage, gas and electricity tariffs, the ceiling price of refined sugar has remained at RM2.95/kg," they said in a joint statement.

As sugar is gazetted under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011, sugar in Malaysia is among the cheapest in the world. Currently, the ceiling price for coarse grain sugar is set at RM2.95/kg and fine granulated sugar at RM3.05/kg.

Despite that, the industry is adversely affected with illegal activities such as sugar smuggling and infiltration of illicit sugar, which are threats to matters concerning halal, quality control and other mandatory certification requirements.

"Nevertheless, the local refiners are committed to provide a stable environment for the consumer whilst maintaining highest standards of sugar quality even at the current controlled price."

In Malaysia, there are two sugar refiners – MSM under FGV Holdings Bhd and CSR under Tradewinds (M) Bhd – operating five sugar refineries, including a new one in Tanjung Langsat, Pasir Gudang, Johor, which is scheduled for commissioning this month.

The current total capacity of the existing four refineries is 2.0 million tonnes a year. Domestic demand in Malaysia is 1.5 million tonnes a year, leaving Malaysia with an excess capacity of 500,000 tonnes annually. With the new refinery in Johor, total capacity will be 3.0 million tonnes a year.

Apart from local brands, they said, there are importers that bring in and market a variety of sugar brands in Malaysia including SIS, Taikoo, Waitrose, Billington, Tate & Lyle, which provides for a competitive landscape.

Food and beverage manufacturers buy sugar through the NY#11, the global commodity trading platform for raw sugar. Local refiners will then execute the buying on behalf of these companies, import the sugar that has been procured and refine it for them for a fee.

As part of the local refiners' duties, a certain amount of sugar is stockpiled to ensure adequate supply in the country during times of high global prices, the refiners said.

"Due to the relatively lower world raw sugar prices today, many opportunistic parties that operate without the overheads and responsibilities that local refiners have, are trying to import sugar and profit from the low prices. These companies may not have the necessary certifications such as the halal certification and will cease operations once world raw sugar prices go higher than the ceiling price. It will then be left to local sugar refiners to address the instability by the void left behind by these opportunistic players."