KZN sugar industry crippled by unrest

South African Sugar Cane Growers Association (SA Canegrowers). PHOTO: SHUKELA SOUTH AFRICA

KwaZulu-Natal’s sugar industry lost R84 million due to July unrest in the province.

The South African Sugar Cane Growers Association (SACA) said it also threatened thousands of rural jobs in the sugar industry.

The association said it had written to the government asking for immediate financial assistance to be paid to sugar cane growers, especially small growers, as the extent of the damage was becoming clearer day by day.

He further said that his fears of being badly affected by the unrest were now materializing.

“At the time of the Troubles, SA Canegrowers reported a cumulative total of potential damage to local cane growers of R300 million if mills were unable to crush the over 500,000 tonnes of cane that were burned in arson attacks. .

“To date, mills in KwaZulu-Natal have rejected 135,222 tonnes of damaged cane, worth over R84.5 million,” SACA said in a statement.

The association added that almost a third of the cane discarded so far, more than 38,000 tons, belonged to small producers, who were most at risk of not recovering from lost income.

SA Canegrowers also pointed out that the majority of small farmers had no form of insurance. This exposed them to the financial risk of losing more if their cane was rejected by the mills.

“Currently below-standard performance of some factories is also exacerbating grower losses. In order to minimize losses, producers need the mills to operate optimally; but that does not happen in many places. SA Canegrowers therefore expected these losses to continue to increase as the mills were not processing burnt cane quickly.

The association said it has also written to a number of government entities asking for financial assistance to be given directly to producers badly affected by the riots.

In order to lessen the impact of the unrest on growers and communities who depend on the industry for their livelihoods, SACA said, urgent government intervention was needed, including immediate financial assistance, which would allow them to stay afloat, maintain their operations and retain workers. as the sector works to rebuild itself.

“It is essential that plans to address the situation across the province include intervention for the sugar industry, which provides over a million livelihoods where they are desperately needed in rural communities.

SA Canegrowers management had also met with entities such as the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) as the damage suffered risked crippling the industry, which was already struggling due to a severe drought, the influx of cheap imports and the health promotion tax (or sugar tax).

“SA Canegrowers remains committed to working with government, growers and local communities to rebuild our industry. With the risk to life greatly reduced, our focus now is on protecting and restoring the livelihoods that depend on the sugar industry,” the association said.

Rachel J. Bradford