SA Canegrowers holds landmark virtual Annual General Meeting
As scores of SA Canegrowers' members gathered around their laptops and desktop computers this morning, the organisation has made history as it hosted its first virtual Annual General Meeting in line with South Africa's COVID-19 pandemic prevention guidelines.
In his report, Chairman Rex Talmage said the national lockdown which was imposed in March had raised new risks to the sugar cane industry, which remained under threat due to the country's weak protection against cheap imports, the ongoing affects of the unprecedented drought, plunging world sugar prices and a major drop in local demand for sugar due to the introduction of the sugar tax (or Health Promotion Levy) two years ago.
Regardless, SA Canegrowers has remained committed to contributing R640 million over the next 5 years to programmes to promote greater transformation within the industry. This brings the total commitment to R732 million that cane growers have already invested in small-scale grower development projects over the past few years.
“Over half our 20 2017 members are emerging small-scale black farmers, which is why SA Canegrowers is prioritising programmes that focus on supporting and developing these growers,” Talmage said.
The meeting also welcomed the recently finalised Sugar Industry Masterplan focused on making sure the foundational role of small-scale growers in the sugarcane value-chain is preserved and extended.
Vice-Chairperson, Dipuo Ntuli, told delegates the association had presented several well-researched ideas regarding small-scale grower sustainability during the Masterplan deliberations process. These submissions were based on data, information and analysis collected using small-scale grower surveys and and arising out of over 50 years of supporting and training the small-scale grower sector.
“SA Canegrowers will continue to work with national government and our industry counterparts over the coming months to develop a comprehensive plan to support small-scale growers. This will include a proposal on a preferential pricing and support package that is linked to the value of products sold; that supports the financial sustainability of small-scale growers and avoids potential value-capture by third parties and service providers”, said Ntuli.
In his report, Andrew Russell, Vice Chairperson of SA Canegrowers said the 2019/20 season was a time when uncertainty and ambiguity became the new norms within the sugar industry as well as in the greater community in which the association operates.
“Thanks to the adherence of our leadership to the core values of the organisation combined with the resilience of our growers, we continued to weather the storm and remarkably at times, made significant progress towards a more sustainable future for all sugarcane growers,” Russel said.