PUTRAJAYA: The sugar retail market has taken a step towards liberalisation after the Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Ministry (KPDN) allowed the sale of non-price controlled sugar.
In a statement yesterday, Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Minister Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub said this type of sugar aimed at the premium market, sold as Refined White Sugar Jernih (also known as pure refined white sugar), is not subjected to price controls unlike conventional granulated sugar.
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This premium sugar comes from local refineries belonging to MSM Malaysia Holdings Bhd and Central Sugars Refinery Sdn Bhd (CSR).
Super refined white sugar is aesthetically more pleasing than regular refined sugar as it has undergone additional refining to remove nearly all impurities and insoluble substances, resulting in a purer and visually more attractive sugar while not introducing any difference in nutritional value compared to conventional granulated sugar.
“Prices for this sugar will be determined by the market, and this application (from the two companies) is part of the marketing plan by the companies to continue to remain competitive and sustainable.
“The government agrees to this application because Refined White Sugar Jernih will give consumers a choice other than white sugar (both coarse and fine),” said Salahuddin, who nonetheless cautioned the two sugar players to ensure that the market had adequate supplies of conventional granulated sugar, whether coarse or fine-grained.
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“The government has also given instructions to MSM and CSR to continue producing refined white sugar in current quantities sufficient for the retail market at the controlled price, which is RM2.85 per kg (coarse grain) and RM2.95 per kg (fine grain).
He also warned retailers to ensure the adequacy of the price-controlled sugar and added that the arrival of premium sugar on the market was not a substitute for the price-controlled items.
“The ministry will also take this opportunity to urge Malaysians to be mindful of their sugar intake for the sake of their health, as recommended by the Health Ministry.
“The ministry also invites the public to help monitor the adequacy of supply in the market by giving feedback through official complaint channels,” he added.
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In a statement on May 16, MSM said the local sugar industry had not been receiving subsidies from the government since 2013 and had been operating in a regulated environment under Section 5 of the Supply Control Act 1961 and Schedule 1 under the Control of Supplies Regulations 1974.
“Retail sugar prices in Malaysia remain among the cheapest in the world, as gazetted under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011 (Determination of Maximum Price, No. 2, Order 2017).
“Although operating in a challenging environment with high operating costs, the local sugar industry urgently requires the government’s intervention by way of a price increase or even on a floating price basis.
“As essential food producers, local sugar refiners ensure food security, while imports are not a sustainable option and are restricted to export quotas from (exporting) countries, particularly India, that may switch off (supply) to protect domestic needs,” said MSM.
Local F&B operators are cautious in their response to this new offering from sugar refineries.
Azlina Amran, 47, founder and operator of Mukarami Coffee Sdn Bhd, said there was no significant difference in nutrition, chemical composition, or taste profile between premium-refined white sugar and regular refined sugar.
“While premium-refined white sugar blends quickly in drinks, the time-saving impact is minimal. In a medium-sized coffee drink of around 350ml, approximately 30ml of sugar syrup provides the desired sweetness.
“Considering the negligible difference in blending time and taste profile between premium-refined and regular refined sugar, there is no practical impact of using premium-refined sugar in beverage preparation,” said Azlina.
“The government’s decision to allow sales of premium-refined white sugar at market prices will increase costs for businesses that use this product. Since sugar is an important ingredient in many food and beverage items, the higher cost may necessitate price adjustments for consumers,” she added.