The biggest and most important challenge by far is the need for rapid transformation of the country’s sugar industry.
This is according to Hans Hackmann, Chairperson of the South African Sugar Association (SASA). He was speaking at the South African Farmers Development Association (SAFDA) Imbizo in Gingindlovu on 24 November 2018. SAFDA is now a recognised member of SASA. “During the past few months we have been engaged in discussions and negotiations to try and find each other on how best to deliver urgent transformation interventions over the next five years,” he said. He stressed: “As difficult as these discussion are, it is extremely important for all stakeholders in our industry to grasp the nettle and find a meaningful solution. Without it we cannot expect to continue receiving support from our government.”
The SAFDA Imbizo was attended by thousands of sugarcane farmers from KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. The organisation was celebrating three years of existence since its formation in 2015. SAFDA also used the Imbizo to announce a multi-million rand Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform which will over the next 10 years see fallow land brought back to life through cane growing or farming, a situation which is likely to increase the area under cane, thereby contributing to increased production and production and productivity. The event was attended by the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry (led by its chairperson Joanmariae Fubbs), Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize (former KZN premier), Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Deputy Minister Sfiso Buthelezi, Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Themba Mthembu, ANC KZN Deputy Chairperson Mike Mabuyakhula (former Economic Development and Tourism MEC) and African Farmers Association of South African President Dr Vuyo Mahlati (who is part of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s land reform advisory panel).
Hackmann said the industry was facing trying times due to a number of factors such as the insufficient import duty and imposition of sugar tax. The current situation has prompted the industry to look into other possibilities (like producing fuel ethanol) in order to ensure its sustainability and viability. “There is an urgent need for us to diversify our business to enable us to be less reliant on making a living from sugar only. We have to broaden our product mix and find a way to make other products from sugarcane. This again would require our government to unlock a dispensation for us whereby we can enter the renewable energy sector,” he said.
It is extremely important for all stakeholders in our industry to grasp the nettle and find a meaningful solution.