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The SA Canegrowers Association, government and other industry stakeholders recently addressed Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) on industry transformation and the implementation of the Sugarcane Value Chain Master Plan. This engagement is part of a shared commitment to the success of the master plan, and to ensure the long-term profitability and sustainability of the industry.
SA Canegrowers’ vice-chairperson, Kiki Mzoneli, spoke about the continued need to support women, youth, and disabled growers. Mzoneli also shared some of the many transformation successes that SA Canegrowers has achieved to help the 21 000 small-scale growers it serves – the vast majority of small-scale sugar cane growers in the industry.
SA Canegrowers was pleased by the committee’s acknowledgement of its role in industry transformation efforts. In January 2022, SA Canegrowers’ contributions made up a significant portion of the R225 million distributed to small-scale growers. These funds were distributed against the backdrop of severe challenges that continue to plague the industry, including cheap foreign imports, the Health Promotion Levy (HPL, or sugar tax), and the unrest in July 2021.
Overall, more than R600 million has been distributed over the past three years, and SA Canegrowers remains committed to working with industry partners to continue this vital work in a responsible, transparent and fully accountable manner.
SA Canegrowers was also pleased by the DTIC’s recognition of its work through its Home Sweet Home campaign. Launched in December 2020, Home Sweet Home encourages local consumers to buy locally produced sugar, which is an industry commitment under the Sugarcane Value Chain Master Plan. This campaign has attracted significant support from a number of stakeholders including the Shoprite Group and Proudly SA. However, SA Canegrowers also welcomed statements made by committee members that greater steps were required to protect the local industry against the ongoing threat of cheap sugar imports.
SA Canegrowers also reported on the progress of work on sustainable aviation fuels under the master plan. A recent report by the World Wildlife Fund has shown that sugar molasses is the most affordable way to make sustainable aviation fuels. This is an opportunity for the industry to build a more sustainable future, and SA Canegrowers will continue to drive this project under the master plan.
Committee members highlighted the importance of government finalising the regulatory framework for sustainable aviation fuels. The diversification of growers into other income streams has been identified as a critical factor for the industry’s long-term sustainability, and SA Canegrowers supports the committee’s call for more concerted efforts to finalise this work.
The HPL or sugar tax has long threatened the livelihoods that the industry supports, and SA Canegrowers has repeatedly called for further study into the impact of the tax on achieving its stated aim of reducing obesity levels in the country. We therefore support the call by committee members for further studies into the health and socio-economic impact of the HPL by government.
SA Canegrowers was, however, disappointed by the confirmation that work had not begun on a dietary intake study envisioned under the master plan. We hope to see this work begin as soon as possible so that government can implement evidence-based policies to support the success of the master plan. SA Canegrowers also supports the call for a joint meeting with the departments of health and finance, among others, to have a holistic discussion about the HPL.
SA Canegrowers will continue to work with industry stakeholders to build a robust and accountable legislative framework to deliver a brighter future for the industry. To that end, SA Canegrowers has invited the committee to visit KwaZulu-Natal, and we were pleased that the members of the committee were receptive to this invitation.
SA Canegrowers is committed to supporting parliament in its oversight work as an integral part of saving the one million livelihoods that depend on the South African sugar industry. – Press release, SA Canegrowers Association