Tonga is experiencing a sugar famine that is expected to last another month. Containers of sugar due to arrive this weekend have missed sea links and will not reach Tonga until the end of August, according to an importer, who is still awaiting the arrival of his January order. Deliveries that previously took 6-8 weeks now take 5-6 months to reach Tonga.
Raw sugar is out of stock in fale koloas around Nuku’alofa for two to three weeks now. But one supermarket still has dwindling supplies of 50 lb (22.68 kg) bags of white sugar retailed at HIGH$ 4.85 per kilo.
Bakers who have exhausted their last reserves are replacing the regular stock with different varieties of sugar.
Iliyaz Ali, director of food importer and wholesaler Punjas (Tonga) Ltd., said wholesale sugar was out of stock due to ship delays.
âWe ordered sugar in January from Thailand and it was supposed to be here this weekend, but it’s delayed until the next ship because it missed the transfer from New Zealand,â he said. at Matangi Tonga Online today.
âThe next container will not arrive until the end of August,â he said.
He said the shipment was unstable because the shipments were not arriving directly in Tonga. Ship-to-ship and port-to-port transfers have been disrupted due to COVID restrictions and other factors.
“We can’t help him.”
He said Punjas was not the only importer of sugar in Tonga. Many other traders imported sugar.
âAll the sugar will arrive on the same shipment, so we’ll be inundated next month,â he predicted.
“The expedition is crazy.”
Iliyaz said it takes 6-8 weeks for an order to reach Tonga. Now it takes 4-5 months to arrive. It also impacted wholesalers who prepaid for shipments as it tied up their cash flow for months. He thought cooking oils might be the next commodity to miss.
Alfred Cowley, Managing Director of A. Cowley & Sons Ltd., said his bakery business was affected by the current sugar shortage in Tonga.
âYes, especially our pastries and sweets. We bring in different kinds of sugar, like icing sugar, and we literally have to use it instead, because there has been a sugar starvation for two to three weeks now.
He said raw sugar destined for Tonga these days comes from Thailand, Brazil and India. White sugar comes from Australia. “Ours comes from New Zealand for cooking.”
However, Alfred believes the delay in shipping was not the only reason for the shortages.
âYes, shipping is a factor, but a small factor. A lot of things concern the importers themselves. Importers all bring containers here, so 30 containers come in at once and then they all fight for the lion’s share of the market, which will be flooded with sugar. And then they think it’s not worth it, and don’t matter anymore, and the problem is everyone thinks the same thing, âhe said. âEach Chinese store imports its own sugar.
Sugar is not the only commodity likely to be affected by the shortages.
situation in Fiji
Alfred monitors the situation in Fiji
“Fiji being under COVID, many ships have turned away from Fiji and could potentially impact flour in the future. Ninety percent of the flour comes from Fiji, along with crackers such as FSM and the Penjas.
âI contacted a New Zealand company, so if something is wrong, if there is a shortage of flour, we have another supplier, so it will only be a short term shortage for Tonga.
Quarantine requirements are also a factor, as cargo must remain for three days after arrival.
Alfred said goods arriving by air on Tuesday were not quarantined until Friday evening, so the cargo would remain until the following Monday, when customs officials could clear it. However, he said customs tried to help with special releases on Friday night in cases where the documents were ready. Given the midweek schedule of inbound freight flights, going forward, “it would be nice if Customs could make special releases on Saturday,” he said.
– By Mary Lyn Fonua