PRESS STATEMENT BY ANDREW RUSSELL
CHAIRPERSON AT SA CANEGROWERS
Today, 2 November 2022, SA Canegrowers had a constructive engagement with the Business Rescue Practitioners appointed in the Tongaat Hulett Limited (THL) matter. Based on this engagement, SA Canegrowers is optimistic that the business rescue practitioners understand the urgency of addressing the non-payment of growers, and the importance of restoring the operation of Tongaat Hulett mills as soon as possible in order to ensure the survival of the cane growing industry in the North Coast region of KwaZulu-Natal.
The engagement, though positive, also highlighted the magnitude of the task at hand, and the necessity of government intervention to ensure that the Tongaat Hulett’s supplying growers can survive while the business rescue process continues.
SA Canegrowers has therefore written to Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, Minister of Trade, Industry, and Competition, Ebrahim Patel, and President Cyril Ramaphosa, amongst others, to request urgent engagements on the necessity of government financial intervention to ensure that the 4,300 growers and 14,642 farm workers affected by Tongaat Hulett’s business rescue can receive the payments they need to support their families.
Growers supplying sugarcane to the Felixton, Amatikulu, and Maidstone mills in KwaZulu-Natal are currently due payments exceeding R400 million for cane delivered in September.
At the end of November, a further R345 million will become due for over 570,000 tons of cane delivered in October.
Of the 4,300 growers affected by the non-payment, more than 4,000 are small-scale growers, making them particularly vulnerable to financial shocks. Moreover, the estimated 14,642 jobs affected does not include the contractors, haulier companies, input suppliers, mill workers and other service providers throughout the value chain whose payment is also affected by the current crisis.
Given the magnitude of the challenge at hand, SA Canegrowers does not believe that the industry can withstand the present peril without financial assistance from government. This is why we have requested urgent meetings with the President, Minister Patel, and Minister Didiza to discuss what funding government can make available, in order to ensure that the work done under the auspices of the Sugarcane Value Chain Masterplan over the past two years to position the sugar industry for the future has not been in vain.
SA Canegrowers remains committed to working with all industry stakeholders to ensure that we can protect all one million livelihoods that depend on the industry.
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