SA Canegrowers assists the Gledhow growers in many ways. The lobbying with government to create awareness about our plight within the industry is a huge benefi t. Ensuring that we are paid the best possible price for our sugar cane is another benefi t that SA Canegrowers brings to the table. I am looking forward to many growers rolling out the employee benefi t scheme over the years to come as well as some ground-breaking innovations fr om the “Innovations Group”, which will help us remain competitive in an oversupplied global market. The costing forms are invaluable to benchmark and budget against as well as to compare contractor rates to. These are most noticeable and effective benefi ts that we derive fr om this well-run organisation.
The 2018/2019 season almost mimicked the 2017/18 season due to the regional and industry challenges faced by the coastal growers. Sugarcane growers in Gledhow faced pressure from pests, industry politics, a falling RV price and dropping demand for sugar to add to the many challenges they face. The Gledhow area received 829mm rainfall in 2018 (i.e. January to December) which was 17% below the long-term mean (LTM) of 995 mm. The 2018 rainfall was 33% lower in comparison to the 2017 rainfall. However, despite the decrease in rainfall, the Gledhow growers remain hopeful and resilient, while continuing to seek opportunities to diversify their farms and to increase sustainability.
In the 2018/19 season, the crop in Gledhow was 4.8% higher than the crop of 2017/18 due to better rainfall in 2017/18. The final deliveries were 1 300 404 tons which represents a 1.1 % drop from the initial grower estimate of 1 314 534 tons submitted by growers. Gledhow mill increased inward cane diversions from 171 tons to 11 414 tons (i.e. 6 574.9%); from 2017/18 to 2018/19 respectively. Moreover, due to the pressure of the declining RV price, many growers decided to increase their carry-over crop which resulted in an increase of the carry-over crop of 401 780 tons with the hope of a better RV price in 2019/20.
The Gledhow mill opened on 15 March 2018, and the crushing season was 37 weeks. During the first couple of weeks into the season, the mill experienced back end problems which affected overall operations of the mill. The overall time efficiency (OTE) was pegged at 77% which is 6.8% lower than the OTE in 2017/18. Nonetheless, the coastal sugar mills experienced an increase in the RV, and Gledhow mill had the lowest increase of 0.9% from previous season i.e. 11.84% vs 11.87%, due to ripening and an increasing application of best management practices on farms. The cane to sugar ratio improved by 0.4% from the previous season.
SA Canegrowers continues to represent growers in Gledhow as the representative voice for the growers in local structures. The ties between SA Canegrowers and its Local Grower Council in Gledhow continue to remain strong. Moreover, growers have commenced forums in which they look at how they can bring change in the Gledhow communities and enhance the image of sugarcane growers. SA Canegrowers continues to seek opportunities for growers to diversify and supplement their sugarcane enterprises. More growers are exploring other farming opportunities to supplement sugarcane and maximize returns on their farms; macadamias and tea tree have become popular options for diversification. SA Canegrowers has continued to offer growers technical support such as; cash flow budgets, compensation claims, mechanisation reports and crop biological valuations which are sent to financial institutions and other concerned stakeholders. SA Canegrowers launched a school program with the aim of visiting high schools in the communities wherein sugarcane is produced to inspire the youth. Moreover, all pupils were informed about tools available from the South African Sugar Association (SASA) to help them further acquire higher learning i.e. SITFE bursary funding. The school program was well received by the principals and teachers at Vukile High School.
All growers are hoping to receive a better RV price for their crop this season as they potentially have an improved cane crop.