Cape Town – The SA Cane Growers’ Association has welcomed Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel’s gazetting of the sugar industry masterplan.
This marked a major milestone in efforts to ensure the long-term sustainability and profitability of the sector, the association said. Amendments to the Sugar Industry Agreement and South African Sugar Association, developed by the government together with industry role-players including producers and users of sugar, sets out action to protect thousands of jobs, rural livelihoods and businesses.
Patel said the sugar industry was a critical employer of workers and a source of livelihood for large numbers of rural communities. “The sugar masterplan aims to diversify the value chain based on sugar cane away from one that is today almost solely focused on the production of raw and refined sugar, into one that in future produces a wider range of globally competitive sugar cane-based products.
“The masterplan for the South African sugar cane value chain is the result of extensive engagement and consultation among sugar industry stakeholders and social partners.
“It represents a new social compact based on dialogue, shared ownership and wide support,” Patel said.
SA Cane Growers’ Association chairperson Rex Talmage said the longevity of the industry has been in question over recent years due to several threats, including unprecedented droughts, plunging world sugar prices and a major drop in local demand for sugar due to the introduction of the sugar tax.
Annual sugar production in South Africa has declined by nearly 25%, from 2.75 million to 2.1 million tons per annum, over the past 20 years.
The number of sugar cane farmers has declined by 60% during this period, and sugar industry-related jobs are estimated to have reduced by 45%.
“The recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and national lockdown poses a new threat to the stabilisation of the sector. It is, therefore, critical that we ensure the long-term sustainability of the sugar industry, which forms the backbone of rural economies and sustains tens of thousands of livelihoods and businesses.
“The masterplan aims to achieve this over the next three years by, among other things, increasing demand in the local market by committing manufacturers to prioritise locally grown and manufactured sugar in their product ranges; improving import protection; the development of small-scale growers and increasing transformation in all sectors of the industry; production diversification support and the potential restructuring of the industry,” Talmage said.
Patel also gazetted a designation of the sugar industry, which permits the industry to be considered by competition regulators for specified exemptions.
Source: Independent Online