These factors include the worst drought since the early 1990s and increased competition in the SACU market from deep water imports and regional sugar producers, as changes in the European sugar regime manifest themselves locally. The South African sugar industry is estimated by LMC International (a leading independent economic and business consultancy for the agri-business sector worldwide) to operate at one of the lowest margins of all sugar-producing countries. To compound matters, there is the looming proposed tax on sugar sweetened beverages for certain parts of the industry.
Despite these threats to the survival and sustainability of the industry, we have been able to keep going and adapt to the current situation. We have demonstrated that we possess the requisite skills and experience to withstand the onslaught as we work our way towards maintaining a resilient South African sugar industry. Thank you to the industry leadership (both Millers and Growers) for their support and hard work. I would also like to thank the Executive Director, Mr Trix Trikam, his executive team and their staff members for their hard work and dedication to the industry. I commend all divisions for the high calibre of work produced. It is by working collectively and contributing in our specialist areas that we have been able to keep this industry going.
Our industry remains committed to the development and improvement of rural economies, especially in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga where we operate. The industry – which has created 85 000 direct jobs, 350 000 indirect jobs and one million people dependent on the growing and milling activities - is fully behind the National Development Plan given its contribution to employment, skills development and economic development in general. Working together with government remains one of our priorities. We continue to value and encourage effective participation at all levels in matters relating to the sugar industry. The industry is steadfast in its support for the development of black growers throughout all growing and milling regions and will continue to implement initiatives aimed at growing this sector.
The end of the depression is not yet in sight as below average rainfall is predicted for the 2016/2017 season. But I am convinced the industry will be able to weather the storm - we have the necessary skills and experience. Government interventions which help to grow the industry are also of critical importance, especially during challenging times.