Women in sugar urged to comply with SARS and labour legislation
The business of sugarcane farming topped the agenda at the inaugural SA Canegrowers Women’s Sugar Conference held at KwaShukela to celebrate national women’s month.
The scores of women who packed out the event were treated to top speakers and topics relating to the intricacies of South African Revenue Service compliance as well as the importance of positive labour relations on farms.
Delegates were also updated on the ground-breaking SA Canegrowers Benefit Scheme for farm labourers which is already starting to impact on the lives of workers in the sugarcane industry.
Brittain Walker from the fund administrator, Mihr, said since the fund was launched last year, R425 000 has been paid out to beneficiaries and R100 000 in claims was still pending.
She said the response by growers in Noodsberg, Eston and Sezela where the scheme was initially introduced had exceeded expectations.
The women attending the conference were mainly growers and landowners or those who headed up the administration on sugarcane farming operations.
Di Seccombe who is the head of national tax training in South Africa for the global consulting firm, Mazars, warned that South Africa’s Revenue Service had closed loopholes in agriculture tax benefits with officials closely monitoring compliance by those in the farming sector.
With vast knowledge and a gift for simplifying the complexity of the legislation, Seccombe explained that the Act was now very clear specifically on tax collection linked to land ownership by individuals, family owned Trusts, and companies started up by farmers for operational purposes.
She said a good understanding of the interpretation of the legislation regarding revenue from farm produce and downstream agri-processing was critical to ensure compliance and to avoid exorbitant fines if farmers were found to be in contravention of the Act.
Jahni De Villiers, who is a labour relations expert at Agri-SA brought delegates up to date with programmes underway at the national body to promote farming and its importance to the economy at national government level.
She said agriculture was recently highlighted by President Cyril Ramaphosa as critical to the growth of the economy and that Agri-SA was well represented at national bodies such as the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) where discussions were underway to develop plans to increase employment and work opportunities, particularly for young people and specifically in agriculture.
Over 800 000 people are employed on farms with just 58 000 of those workers considered skilled, she said.
Corporate Executive at SA Canegrowers Kathy Hurly said despite the volatile and uncertain conditions facing sugarcane farmers the association was hard at work lobbying national government on behalf of the sector particularly in relation to an increased import tariff on imported refined sugar flooding into the country on the back of a depressed world price.
She said the association was also engaged in the land expropriation without compensation debate, as well as a number of “special projects” aimed at promoting the sector and supporting farmers and their staff.
In her welcome to the delegates, sugarcane farmer and grower council member at Sezela on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, Mam Ncwane, used salt as an analogy to describe the importance of the role played by the women in the sugar sector.
She said as salt was an essential element in the diet, so women were essential in finding solutions to the many challenges facing the future sustainability of the sector.