Small-scale cane growers in KwaZulu-Natal are looking forward to saving millions of rand on their annual expense bill. Thanks to the Mkhuze rail transloading facility, which is finally being handed over to them today, the farmers are set to hang on to an additional R7 million every year.
The department of agriculture, land reform and rural development agreed to finance the R38-million facility after Tongaat Hulett Sugar (THS) announced that it would discontinue a road transport subsidy for Makhathini small-scale growers, and the farmers pleaded for help.
The department appointed the South African Farmers Development Association (Safda) to implement the project, and less than 18 months after Safda published the tender for developing the transloading facility, it is ready to be handed over by minister Thoko Didiza to the 1 900 small-scale Makhathini sugarcane farmers who will benefit from it.
The station will cut out around 300 km of road to the Felixton mill, and according to Safda, it will bring down the total transport cost to farmers to about R112 per tonne. Previously, farmers were paying R170 per tonne with the rest of the costs covered by the THS subsidy.
Safda chief executive Dr Siyabonga Madlala tells Food For Mzansi that, at approximately 117 000 tonnes of sugarcane that currently comes from Makhathini each year, this equates to a total saving of R6.8 million per year for its small-scale farmers.
“Over time, as the cane production potential increases for the Makhathini farmers, delivering 350 000 tonnes using the new transloading facility could save [them] R16 million per year,” he says.
The facilities also include a spiller that can offload road vehicles at a rate of over 300 tonnes per hour. According to consulting engineers Bosch Holdings, a decommissioned spiller was sourced, dismantled and totally refurbished to brand-new condition.
The larger impact
Reggie Ngcobo, spokesperson for the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development, tells Food For Mzansi that the Mkhuze rail siding transloading facility will enhance farmers’ meaningful participation in the sugarcane sector and simultaneously transition them to the mainstream in this lucrative business sector.
“The minister’s visit is significant because the Mkhuze railways siding will assist farmers to transport their sugarcane by rail to the sugar mills. [The minister will also] officially open a farmer support unit that will support farmers in northern KwaZulu-Natal,” Ngcobo says.
Madlala adds that there is an addition to the financial and infrastructural development impact of the project. “The movement from road to rail also positively impacts on the reduction of carbon emissions [which is] in line with government’s commitments to the Kyoto protocol.
“Furthermore, the project will support a reduction in the volume of trucks on the road, especially on the N2 north of Richards Bay to Jozini.”
Didiza will also hand over machinery and farming equipment to the value of R10 million. This forms part of getting the uMkhanyakude District Sugarcane Farmer Production Support Unit (FPSU) into operation.
On Saturday (7 May 2022) the minister is scheduled to hand over settlement certificates and title deeds to five communities of Melmoth. They are also due to receive some of the equipment acquired using development funding, Ngcobo says.
“The cumulative value of both the land acquisition and development funding is over R1 billion.”
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