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Sugar Industry Masterplan gets the green light

Sugar Industry Masterplan gets the green light

BY: Colleen Dardagan 09 Apr 2020 Filed in: Sugar Industry News

Image: Getty Images

SA Canegrowers Broadcast

SA Canegrowers has remained proactive and decisive during the COVID-19 lockdown particularly in the way the organisation has represented grower interests despite the prevailing challenges.

The association is continuing to use its various online communication platforms to share accurate and credible information to assist in informing our crisis-management strategies. 

This has been achieved through regular video-conference meetings with the Executive, the Board of Directors, all the Local Grower Council Chairmen, the Regional Services Managers, Kwanalu, AgriSA and the Government. 

These meetings have boosted the positive synergy between all of us. 

This letter then is aimed at updating our members on the critical issues such as:

  • any legislative amendments,
  • the sugar industry Masterplan, 
  • COVID-19 update, 
  • and the South African Sugar Research Institute ( SASRI) budget. 
  • The Department of Health has sent out a plea to the sector for the use of any available facilities when it  becomes necessary to isolate those who are found to be infected with the coronavirus. 

 

Interim Legislative Arrangements 

The proposed amendments to the Sugar Industry legislation is delayed largely due to the management of the COVID-19 outbreak taking priority in the government. 

In the interim, the status quo will remain until June 30, 2020. 

The Sugar Industry Masterplan 

We can now confirm the plan has the agreement of all the parties and Department of Trade and Industry head, Minister Ebrahim Patel and his advisor, Harald Harvey, will soon communicate the next steps we need to all take in the process of getting the plan actioned. 

The plan was started by the Minister in June 2019 after which frequent discussions were held between all those involved to get to the point, now, where the plan is finalised and ready for signatures. 

The aim of the plan is to avoid an “unmanaged decline” in the industry and to put the sugar sector on a sustainable path into the future.

In a historic virtual meeting held on April 8, 2020 Minister Patel and the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Thoko Didiza led a meeting of 82 people from various government departments, the South African Sugar Association, sugar milling companies, growers (SA Canegrowers and SAFDA), CGSA (consumer goods council), BEVSA (beverage sector) and Labour (FAWU) to finalise the Sugar Industry Masterplan document. 

The finalised plan was presented by Harald Harvey, advisor to Minister Patel. 

The following points were highlighted:

1. He was comfortable that numerous submissions on the document were received by the parties and there was now full agreement on its contents. 

2. The major issue of the Competition Commission exemption was raised as without the exemption, numerous parties would not be able engage on the document. Harvey said Minister Patel had reached an agreement with the Competition Commission on how the exemption could be achieved. 

3. Harvey reiterated that the plan was setting the industry on a path that was fundamentally different from the current one and the commitment from the different departments on various aspects on the plan must be actioned despite the plan not having been officially signed off due to the COVID-19 lockdown. 

SA Canegrowers will continue to be fully involved in the ongoing process linked to the Masterplan and will continue to make sure the interests of its members are represented in the ongoing discussions. 

As an organisation we are very positive about today’s development and believe the plan is just the start of a sustainable and profitable future for the crisis-stricken sugar industry. 

COVID-19 update 

We are now into day 14 of the imposed lockdown. Sugarcane production and its associated services were deemed essential in the food production value chain and as such the industry has 11 mills in operation. 

However, we are investigating the matter of health and safety requirements on farms. The Department of Employment and Labour have carried out audits on various farms as is their mandate in making sure the COVID-19 regulations are adhered to. Of concern is according to the audit list staff are required to wear medical grade masks while going about their duties. This is neither affordable nor practical for our industry so we have raised the matter with Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) to gain clarity. 

Travel arrangements appear to be working well with the permits accepted by both the South African Police services (SAPS) and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) at roadblocks. 

Please remember to use the two-page permit and the driver must be wearing a mask. 

A basic income grant is under consideration for many who require some type of cash injection for their operations in the short term. SA Canegrowers made comment on the proposal yesterday and this is also with BUSA at the moment.

SA Canegrowers is keeping and will continue to keep your Local Grower Council Chairmen up-to-date with any changes to the regulations but if you are having any difficulties or would like to share any experience please contact Dr Kathy Hurly or visit our website at www.sacanegrowers.co.za for the links to the Kwanalu and AgriSA web sites where further detail is provided on legislation and regulations linked to the COVID-19 lockdown. 

 

Rex Talmage

SA Canegrowers’ Chairman

 

 

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