With the price of goods skyrocketing, consumers are struggling to weather the storm. At the forefront is the sugar industry, which has been plagued by a multitude of challenges. The South African Sugar Association (SASA) believes the economic challenges the country is facing are having an impact on the sector, which might threaten growth and job creation.
The Sugarcane Value Chain Masterplan was signed in November 2020 and some of the most important key elements included restoring the local market and offtake commitments, producer price restrain and certainty, strategic trade protection, job retention and mitigation, small-scale grower retention and support, transformation and the industry’s restructuring plan.
SASA’s executive director, Trix Trikam, gives Food For Mzansi an update on the status of the sugar industry and outlines the future projects that they will be embarking on.
Tiisetso Manoko: How has the sugar industry been impacted by various challenges that have crippled the country, such as the KZN looting, KZN floods, load shedding, Covid-19 and rising costs of petrol?
Trix Trikam: Both the sugarcane growing and milling sectors were hit hard by the torrential downpours which left behind hundreds of people dead.
Information from industry members indicates that some farmers and millers suffered serious damage. The South African Canegrowers Association put the total cost of the damage at approximately R223 million.
The nature of the damage included soil erosion, waterlogging, infield roads damage, canefields covered by sand, cane washed away by floods, gravel roads swept away, damage to bridges, farmhouses, workshop buildings and dam walls.
Also, both small-scale and large-scale growers were adversely impacted by the civil unrest, which was characterised by destruction and burning of property and infrastructure, violence and looting. With regards to the sugar industry, more than 500 000 tons of cane in KwaZulu-Natal was burnt by arsonists.
In total, 135 growers ranging from small-scale to large scale farmers, had direct cane losses due to the arson in KwaZulu-Natal, with a calculated total direct impact of 135 222 tons of cane not being able to be crushed, valued at R84.4 million.
Do we know how much in terms of value does the sugar industry contribute towards the SA economy? And how many jobs are created by the industry?
At least one million people are dependent on the cane growing and milling activities of the industry. We create 65 000 direct and 270 000 indirect jobs. Operating in deep rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, the industry makes a crucial contribution to the economy.
What are the immediate tasks that need to be addressed by industry leaders and government to ensure that the sector grows?
The sugar industry and other relevant stakeholders are working together in implementing the all-important Sugarcane Value Chain Masterplan to 2030, which was signed in November 2020.
Some of the apex priorities of the master plan are the optimisation of the local market and coming up with clearly defined diversified solutions. This is aimed at promoting a sustainable industry.
Amid the ailing economy of SA, what are the successes that the association can point out?
Prior to the initiation and signing of the aforementioned master plan, the industry faced serious challenges such as sugar imports, dwindling local sales and insufficient tariff. The industry was on the brink of collapse. However, since the implementation of the master plan the industry has made some progress toward recovery.
While further urgent work is required to remove the industry from the “intensive care unit”, the master plan has created a platform that serves the aligned stakeholders towards the common goals of the local economy.
What is the future outlook and plans for the reminder of the year?
The future looks promising. All stakeholders need to remain committed to the master plan to ensure a thriving sugar industry.
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