When the South African Farmers Development Association (Safda) was officially recognised by the sugar industry just a few months ago, its immediate priority was to deliver a series of much-needed immediate changes for the benefit of all growers.

These included, among others, stemming the influx of imported sugar, securing a premium price for all black growers and prioritisation of small-scale growers in the daily rateable delivery (DRD) allocation system.

Safda’s pursuit of transformation recently showed signs of tangible outcomes as the sugar industry adopted what can be regarded as the eight-point plan for immediate transformation interventions. This was in response to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee’s instruction that the industry comes up with a plan for both short- and long-term transformation interventions.

The total monetary value of the immediate interventions amounts to R172 million and has been implemented retrospectively with effect from April 2018. The specific areas of interventions are:

  • Intervention 1: Increase in premium cane payment for black small-scale sugarcane farmers – based on local market sugar pricing,
  • Intervention 2: Establishment of a premium cane price for black sugarcane farmers (who do not qualify as small-scale farmers),
  • Intervention 3: Subsidisation of black small-scale sugarcane farmers’ cane transport costs,
  • Intervention 4: Allocate additional funding for the training of black sugarcane farmers via the Grower Development Account (GDA),
  • Intervention 5: Institutional capacity building subsidy to fund start-up costs of new emerging black sugarcane farmer associations,
  • Intervention 6: Creation of Sugar Industry Job Creation Accelerator Programme for black youth and women,
  • Intervention 7: Access to seed cane of the appropriate varieties for black small-scale sugarcane farmers, and
  • Intervention 8: Subsidisation of black small-scale sugarcane farmers’ membership levies.

The interventions come as a huge relief to small-scale growers such as Walter Mandlazi, who despite producing as high as 160t per hectare on his 10ha farm at Figtree D in Komati, still can’t make a profit due to the lack of economies of scale which increases production costs.

While some within the industry have raised concerns about whether the industry would be able to afford this transformation “bill”, Bruce Dunlop of Tongaat Hulett highlighted that industry’s contribution towards transformation must not be viewed as a cost, but an investment – the return on which will be enormous in setting the industry on the right path in the country’s pursuit of transformation and ensure that the industry celebrates the return on investment in the long term.

“While it is known that in the current situation it is the small-scale growers who are the hardest hit, commitment to transformation should not be just about sharing the spoils. It must be about sharing the pain as well,” added Dunlop.

By Sfiso Mnguni

Sfiso is the Grower Support Services Manager at the South African Farmers Development Association

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