SA Canegrowers

Black sugarcane growers boosted by R128 million transformation spend but the sector remains stifled by SA sugar tax

SA Canegrowers contributed R128 million to the sugar industry’s annual transformation projects during the 2020/21 financial year which provided much needed relief to the thousands of small-scale and mainly black growers who depend on the sector for their livelihoods.

The revenue due to this group of growers for the year under review, however, was pegged at 15% less than the previous year due mainly to the impact of the Health Promotion Levy (the HPL or ‘sugar tax’) on the sector.

These key statistics were reported at the SA Canegrowers 94th Annual General Meeting held via Zoom yesterday (June 9) in line with the country’s Covid-19 restrictions.

New leadership was elected by the more than 60 members who attended the meeting which included a new Chairman, Vice Chairpersons and a new board for the forthcoming financial year as follows:

Chairman:​AM Russell (Andrew)

Vice Chair:​NS Mzoneli (Nolusizo)

Vice Chair:​GD Stainbank (Graeme)

Directors:​GDP Littley (Dave)

DH Lütge (Dieter)

PH Mdluli (Higgins)

MM Msimango (Mfundo)

TJ Murray (Tim)

ST Naidoo (Suresh)

RM Ncwane (Rejoice)

DR Ntuli (Dipuo)

P Sharma (Pratish)

REG Talmage (Rex) (SASA Grower Nominee)

TB Sibisi (Tim)

Transformation projects

According to reports tabled at the meeting the transformation project funding was divided up as follows:

• R138 million was distributed through a premium price for sugarcane supplied by black small-scale growers and land reform growers

• R20 million subsidised transport costs for black small-scale growers

• R10 million was spent on black youth and women’s programmes• R5 million to augment the Sugar Industry Trust Fund for Education

• R 5 million on an agricultural training top-up for black growers via the South African Sugar Association’s Grower Development Account. 

Masterplan milestone

The signing of the Sugarcane Value Chain Masterplan to 2030 in September was a significant milestone for the sector. 

“While the Masterplan is still barely out of the seedbed, a number of the commitments are already being implemented and are showing promising signs of contributing to the much hoped-for recovery. This should assist in sustaining the livelihoods of over one million people who depend on the sugarcane growing and processing ecosystem. This includes not only vulnerable small-scale growers who receive the same basic sugarcane Recoverable Value (‘RV’) price as all growers, but crucially also of commercial growers who collectively employ over 80 000 farmworkers who represent some 11% of all agricultural workers” said Vice-Chairperson Andrew Russell.

Seedcane successes

SA Canegrowers also received R600 000 from the Coca Cola SA’s development fund, namely the Mintirho Foundation to establish seedcane plots for small-scale growers in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. The project focused on supplying quality, clean and disease-free seedcane to growers and to improve cane varieties on their farms. The sale of seedcane grown on these plots brought in more than R1 million, which was reinvested to plant an additional 104 hectares of new seedcane. This programme not only improved the quality of small-scale growers’ yields but also created employment opportunities for local communities who helped plant the new seedcane. 

Funeral benefits programme

The SA Canegrowers’ funeral benefit scheme also continued to provide financial support to families of participating farm workers who lost their loved ones over the past year. More than 12 000 small-scale growers were also signed up to the programme with their premiums being covered by SA Canegrowers, receiving insurance coverage worth more than R260 million. 

“We are pleased that the scheme has been able to offer affordable products to black growers who had limited access to these kinds of services in the past” said Vice-Chairperson Dipuo Ntuli. 

Dedicated action ahead

Outgoing Chairman Rex Talmage said: “Although there’s still a long way to go, there are finally positive signs of recovery. We have seen a 14% growth in sugar sales resulting from reduced sugar imports and the offtake commitments from the social compact partners procuring more locally produced sugar, which is a promising glimmer of what is possible if we all work together to meet the challenges our industry continues to face like the sugar tax. SA Canegrowers is fully committed to making the Masterplan a success in order toensure the long-term sustainability and profitability of the sugar industry as a whole. We will continue working withgovernment and our sector partners towards its implementation.” 

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