Luckily for all members of the industry, SA Canegrowers embodies the highest standard of corporate governance, conducts its business with total transparency, and displays exemplary ethics and integrity. We have been thrust into the face of mainstream politics in the past season, and for those involved at the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for trade and industry, they have represented us with distinction.
Amatikulu growers were delighted to experience a year with over 1 000mm of rainfall yet again for the second consecutive year over the past 5 years! This marks a recovery from the extended drought of the 14/15/16 seasons. Despite an increase in total industry crop size, the season was marked by a flood of imported sugar which, coupled with the Health Promotion Levy resulted in a depressed RV price. Accordingly, while upbeat about improved growing conditions, growers remain undeniably in a cost-squeeze position coming out of the season.
Due to marginally better rainfall and improved varieties, the 2018/19 season produced a crop of 1 666 070 tons, representing an 8.71% improvement on the preceding season, and a 4% increase of growers’ first estimate (implying that it was a growing crop). Likewise, cane quality was much improved, with a final RV of 12.24% compared to 11.86% the previous season.
While a bigger crop measuring 1 256 000 tons was crushed in the season, generally performance revealed a deterioration in the Overall Time Efficiency (OTE) at 67.44% representing a slight reduction (1.16%) on the previous year. This is a clear depiction that there is still significant room for improvement in terms of downtime. Attention has been given to the mill during the off-crop and we remain hopeful that this will be evident in the 2019/20 season performance stats.
In October 2015, a species of Long Horn Beetle (Cacosceles Newmanii), indigenous to the area, was first found in grub stage in damaged cane in Entumeni. The potential spread of this pest was of significant concern as it posed a great risk to the industry. Accordingly, quarantine measures were put in place as well as funds allocated to the containment of the pest. While ideally, the aim would be to eradicate the pest entirely; more realistically, the aim was to keep the pest in a restricted area and to supress its population (i.e. keep the population below its economic threshold), the only way to achieve this would be to destroy the host crop and fallow for 2 years. To date 1 100ha infested with the pest has been destroyed. Several industry stakeholders have been involved in this project and they are all to be commended for their efforts.
At the start of the year the SA Canegrowers’ staff arranged small-scale grower zone visits. The aim of these visits was to introduce themselves, get to know and thank growers that had continued supporting SA Canegrowers, and to remind them of the mandate and duties of SA Canegrowers in the region. Many growers appreciated the gesture saying SA Canegrowers had held their hands and remained their grower association of choice. This was humbling and further inspired the newly appointed team to uphold the standard set before us and to continue serving with excellence.
Zululand Agric Holdings (ZAH) continues to impress as a success story. In 2018 the group expanded their haulage operations to two additional mills, Felixton and Darnall. Their success shows that value adding opportunities are not necessarily far from reality when growers unite in a single objective.
The 2019/20 season is poised to be one which shows a continued improvement in the crop. The Amatikulu guestimate is at 1.72 million tons. The hopes of the good crop are tainted by forecasts of an RV Price which remains depressed due to insufficient cushioning against imports and the impact of the Health Promotion Levy. It is thus with cautious optimism that growers approach the new season.