The South Afr ican Sugar Industry has an annual operating cost totalling R1.3 billion of which 64% is borne by the growers. SA Canegrowers through its Board of Directors provides the essential oversight and good governance required to manage this expenditure. South Afr ica’s Revenue Service also depends on critical information provided by SA Canegrowers to set levels of essential benefi ts such as the diesel rebate and the VAT fl at rate for small-scale growers. At a time when proceeds fr m sugar farming is at an all-time low, growers are having to make some diffi cult agronomic decisions. The information and ongoing support provided by SA Canegrowers’ regional managers are absolutely critical services to ensure the survival of our industry.
Urbanisation is on the rise on the North Coast leading to loss of cane supply. This has prompted the Tongaat Hulett Group in Maidstone to procure cane from neighbouring mill areas. The Maidstone area received 758 mm of rainfall in 2018 (i.e. January to December) which was 22% below the long-term mean (LTM) of 972 mm. The 2018 rainfall was 36% lower in comparison to the 2017 rainfall.
The 2018/19 season was a good season for Maidstone growers. The crop in 2018/19 increased by 12.8% from the preceding season, with final deliveries totalling 1 109 210 tons. There was an improvement of 3.1% of recoverable value (RV) in 2018/19 compared to the previous season, the improvement was from 11.95% in 2017/18 to 12.31% in 2018/19. The Maidstone mill’s inward diversion increased from the previous season.
The Maidstone Mill, crushing with a single tandem, had a fair year that saw 1 152 095 tons being crushed which was 18.1% higher than the previous year. Moreover, 32 778 tons of cane was diverted out of Maidstone in 2018/19 compared to the 23 446 tons diverted in 2017/18. The overall time efficiency (OTE) for 2018/19 is 77.21% and this is a 6.7% improvement from the previous year. Cane spillage in Tongaat CBD continues to be a serious concern and meetings with the councillor were organised where all stakeholders were urged to be vigilant when loading sugarcane.
The mill operated for 31 weeks and finished crushing cane on 7 December 2018. The mill experienced back end problems which eventually affected cane deliveries, however, the mill production management managed to improve the cane to sugar ratio by 5.8%, dropping it from 9.20% in 2017/18 to 8.68% in 2018/19. It is of concern that we see Indian-origin title-owned farmers in Inanda, near Verulam, continuing to suffer from illegal land invasions which started in 2016 and continued until late 2018. Earlier in 2018, the Inanda growers also suffered crop losses through cattle damage and arson in their fields. The MEC for Human Settlement in KwaZulu- Natal, Ravi Pillay was asked to intervene by the Umdoloti Farmers’Association and with consistent pressure on government and the involvement of SA Canegrowers on the Police Rural Safety committee, the police department has instituted patrols in the Inanda area. Since then, a couple of arrests have been made and pressure to pay for damages has come from the court to all perpetrators; this was as a direct result of the compensation reports
submitted by SA Canegrowers to the authorities.
An improved crop of about 1 275 000 tons is expected in the 2019/20 season, if there are good rains. However, the sobering RV price outlook in the face of continued imports and the impact of the recently introduced Health Promotion Levy, remains a concern for all our growers. Despite all prevailing hurdles, growers remain hopeful and resilient while continuously looking for opportunities to diversify their farms and increase sustainability.