SA Canegrowers has strongly condemned the criminality linked to ongoing violent rioting and looting in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Board Chairman, Andrew Russell has now called on the South African government to declare a state of emergency and to deploy South African Defence Force troops to hot spots to restore law and order as a matter or urgency.
“KwaZulu-Natal is not only ground zero for the unrest, but also the heart of South Africa’s sugar industry. Gauteng has also been hit hard, with the destruction now spreading to Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape. The lawlessness evident throughout the country has caused enormous harm to the national economy,” Russell said.
A further concern, he said was the fact that the sugarcane producing sector was in the middle of its annual harvesting season resulting in irrecoverable losses to cane growers, workers, and the one million people who depended on the sector for their income, he said.
Damages to growers in the sector is now estimated at R600-a-ton, which represents a loss in grower revenue of more than R211 million.
The sugar millers were equally devastated, Russell said.
“This has a knock-on effect as all the sugar mills in KwaZulu-Natal were forced to shut their operations during the week as they were unable to safely receive deliveries of cane from our growers or distribute the processed sugar or molasses owing to disruptions to transport routes and blockades at the mills. Workers have also been threatened, further supporting the decision to shut down in order to protect their lives,” he added.
Russell said the damage was crippling and would impact the industry long after the unrest had died down. “This will result in further job losses in rural areas where employment is difficult to find. Without immediate and drastic measures to restore the rule of law, the ongoing damage to critical infrastructure may soon become irreparable. We are communicating and cooperating with government as well as community and industry organisations to prevent and mitigate as much of the damage as possible. But, our priority at this time remains the protection of lives,” Russell said.