SA Canegrowers backs Agricultural Sector Provident Fund

SA Canegrowers backs Agricultural Sector Provident Fund

SA Canegrowers has thrown its weight behind South Africa’s landmark Agricultural Sector Provident Fund with a tailor-made product able to boost the social wellbeing of workers both in the small-scale and commercial sugarcane growing sectors.

Talks between SA Canegrowers and Maxi Employee Consultant (MEC Consult) – the firm tasked with marketing and training on the approved Agricultural Sector Provident Fund – are well established with the launch of a flexible, low monthly contribution approved for the sugarcane growers last year.

Sign-up drive underway

SA Canegrowers CEO, Thomas Funke said meetings and presentations to encourage farmers and their staff to sign-up for the scheme were now underway.

“MEC Consult presented the proposed product to the SA Canegrowers’ board in May last year. As a result of that the SA Canegrowers Farm Workers Provident Fund was developed and subsequently given the green light. Since then, MEC have been meeting with our regional representatives and growers to inform them of the benefits and solutions the scheme offers,” Funke said.

MEC Consult’s George Dreyer said the firm specialised in risk and provident products aimed at the agricultural sector in the country. “We have been operating since 1991. That means we know that no farm or agricultural operation is the same. Because of that we have come up with products that are flexible and uncomplicated to ease administration and limit costs. In short, each sector can design their own fund to meet their specific niched needs,” Dreyer said.

The provident fund product, he added, included a savings fund, death and disability cover, accident and bodily loss cover and temporary income for six months if a worker was injured and or disabled.

Balanced benefits

He said the initial processes linked to the launch of the product were well advanced. “So far we have held extensive discussions and meetings with farmers and SA Canegrowers’ regional representatives. In designing the product, we looked closely at the specific needs of both the farmer and the farmworker. We are comfortable that the benefit structure takes both sets of needs into account in a balanced way,” he said.

Funke said because of the crisis in the sugarcane sector, flexibility, and an understanding of how profit margins had shrunk due to the impact of the imposed Health Promotions Levy and the 16.1% wage increase for farm workers earlier this year were critical.

“MEC Consult also had to come up with a product which offered solutions for our commercial grower members who might employ more than 30 staff, and our small-scale growers who usually employ far less staff than that,” he said.

As SA Canegrowers had already launched its unique and highly successful funeral benefit scheme in 2018, this was not included as a benefit in the SA Canegrowers Farm Workers Provident Fund offering.

“Our funeral benefit scheme was a first in the agricultural sector and it really has been highly successful particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the onset of the pandemic the administrators reported a heavy increase in claims which demonstrated the relevance of the product,” Funke said.

R6 million in claims settled

Currently 12 196 people are covered with insurance coverage totalling R260 557 500. Since its inception the fund has settled claims exceeding R6 million, of which more than half were settled in March 2020.

SA Canegrowers’ regional representative and in charge of the oversight of the fund, Craig Breetzke said farmers were slow in signing up for the fund, but he said he believed this would change when they were all fully versed on the benefits and how having such a product in place would contribute to the wellbeing and security of their staff.

For further information on the fund email: george@mecconsult.co.za

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