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Since the start of the year, the sugar industry has distributed more than R225 million to small-scale growers. The recent approval by the sugar industry of an additional R47,7 million for release for this purpose during the remainder of 2022 will bring the total to more than R272 million and provide much-needed relief to growers who were hard hit by several crises over the past year.
These figures were presented at the SA Canegrowers annual general meeting (AGM) held yesterday in Umhlali, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). The occasion marked the association’s 95th anniversary and provided the opportunity for growers to reflect on the industry’s resilience, employment creation, and contribution to rural communities over nine decades, and on the collaborations and partnerships that have made its success over this period possible.
Established in 1927, SA Canegrowers has played a seminal role in the development of the industry in South Africa (SA). The association has represented SA’s growers from the time when the industry produced only a few hundred thousand tons of cane to the production of more than 17 million tons today and has borne witness to the growth of small-scale growers in SA who now produce more than 1,6 million tons.
Today, SA Canegrowers represents more than 22 000 growers, of whom more than 21 000 are small-scale growers. The organisation has grown to support more than one million livelihoods. SA Canegrowers remains committed to ensuring the long-term profitability and sustainability of the industry.
The unrest that rocked KZN last July saw over 500 000 tons of cane burn. A total of 135 222 tons were rendered unmillable, and growers lost more than R84,5 million. The majority of small-scale growers had no form of insurance to cover the losses they faced in light of their cane being burnt by arsonists.
However, thanks to the intervention of SA Canegrowers and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), growers who suffered R1 million or less in damages were able to receive grants, while those who suffered damage over R1 million received loans for the amount exceeding R1 million. This intervention was vital for the survival of the industry and SA Canegrowers remains grateful for the assistance of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) and the IDC at a time of crisis.
The industry’s relief was, however, short-lived as the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February caused severe price shocks as supplies of fuel, fertilisers and other basic commodities were disrupted. Once again, the collective advocacy of partners like AgBiz, Agri SA and others has provided pockets of relief, like the suspension of the fuel levies, despite the ongoing challenges for growers.
This year has continued to deal the industry heavy blows, most recently due to the floods in April which damaged more than 2 516,65ha of cane and incurred a total loss exceeding R222,9 million.
These crises over the past year have been particularly difficult for the industry’s small-scale growers, and the support of government, industry stakeholders and SA consumers has been invaluable. Nowhere has this been clearer than in the progress made towards the full implementation of the masterplan.
Sugar industry masterplan midpoint
Signed in November 2020, the Sugar Cane Value Chain Masterplan is an important part of positioning the industry for the future. Under the masterplan, the SA Canegrowers’ Home Sweet Home campaign to restore local demand was met with incredible support. Since its launch, the campaign has been endorsed by partners such as Proudly South African and retail giant, Shoprite Checkers. And thanks to SA’s consumers, the industry was able to exceed the masterplan’s one-year target of restoring more than 150 000 tons of local demand for sugar.
The AGM also marked the midpoint of the three-year period of the implementation of the masterplan, and there remain crucial objectives to be met in this second half.
SA Canegrowers would like to see government use its purchasing power in departments and state-owned entities to support the local industry, and to see SA sugar and sugar-containing products appropriately designated under the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act, 2000 (Acr 5 of 2002). We also need to fast-track legislative efforts to implement a regulatory framework for the development of the Sustainable Aviation Fuels industry.
And while the increase in the Health Promotion Levy (HPL) has been suspended, it is our plea that government must remove this ever-present threat to growers with finality. The first step is to complete a review of the effectiveness of the HPL in reducing obesity. With the very survival of the sugar industry at stake, SA Canegrowers reiterates its call for the HPL to be scrapped entirely, and for the creation of a more holistic approach to SA’s health care challenges.
New board members
In a show of confidence in its leadership, the SA Canegrowers’ Congress re-elected the chairperson, Andrew Russell, and the current board. Vice-chairperson Graeme Stainbank stepped down from that position with the gratitude of the organisation for the generous contribution of his experience and knowledge. Higgins Mdluli, an established grower and respected leader in the organisation, will take up the position of vice-chairperson alongside Kiki Mzoneli.
The new chairpersons and members of the SA Canegrowers Board for 2022/23 are:
- Chairperson: AM (Andrew) Russell.
- Vice-chairperson: NS (Kiki) Mzoneli.
- Vice-chairperson: PH (Higgins) Mdluli.
Directors: GDP (David) Littley, DH (Dieter) Lütge, MM (Mfundo) Msimango, TJ (Tim) Murray, ST (Suresh) Naidoo, RM (Rejoice) Ncwane, DR (Dipuo) Ntuli, P (Pratish) Sharma, TB (Tim) Sibisi, GD (Graeme) Stainbank, and REG (Rex) Talmage (SASA Grower nominee). – Press release, SA Canegrowers