Cedric Mboyisa

The sugar industry crisis precipitated by unprecedented influx of imports was met with a revolutionary response when cane growers, millers, industry leadership and prominent politicians from across the political spectrum took to the streets of Tshwane on 26 June 2018 to march against sugar dumping.

At least 1 600 people from the sugarcane growing provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga took part in the march which started at the Pretoria Art Museum and ended at the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) Campus (Offices) with the handing over of a memorandum to the dti Director-General Lionel October who received the memo on behalf of Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies.

The march, under the auspices of the South African Sugar Association (SASA), demonstrated high levels of unity as everyone was singing from the same hymn book. At the start of the march, representatives from the South African Farmers Development Association, South African Cane Growers’ Association, South African Sugar Millers’ Association and SASA addressed the crowds. They all called for an immediate increase in the Dollar Based Reference Price (DBRP) to an appropriate level of $856. They said the industry was on the ropes as the floods of imports are threatening the sustainability of the local industry.

The march coincided with the industry’s oral presentations to the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa (ITAC) on why the current DBRP of $566 needs to be reviewed urgently and be increased to an appropriate level to protect local sugar producers. The industry march had the backing of former KwaZulu-Natal Premier and ANC NEC Member Senzo Mchunu, DA Members of Parliament (MPs) Dean Macpherson and Ghaleb Cachalia. The industry has had extensive engagement with the President, ministers, premiers, MECs and MPs regarding the pressing issue of the insufficient tariff.

Upon receiving the memorandum from SASA Chairman Suresh Naidoo, October assured the peaceful marchers that the dti was taking the issue seriously, and that the ITAC issue had been expedited in order to address the concerns of the industry timeously. 

Government has since increased the DBRP to $680, which gives local sugar producers improved protection against cheap sugar imports from subsidised countries.