Delivering top quality seedcane to a small-scale grower in the Gledhow region is not only in line with the industry’s vision to improve the quality of the crop harvested by some 20 000 small-scale growers, but was an act of generosity by a commercial farmer wanting to help his neighbours.
A donation of certified seedcane to a small-scale grower on the KwaZulu-Natal North coast has set the 10ha enterprise on the road to success through the promise of improved yields.
Doringkop Commercial grower, Basil Oellermann, delivered 4.2 tons of certified N59 seedcane together with six bags of fertiliser, to small-scale grower, Velepi Zikalala this week in a generous gesture which supports the industry’s Vision 2023.
Vision 2023 was approved by the sector in 2015. The aim of the scheme is to improve the quality of the sugarcane grown by small-scale growers resulting in more financially viable operations and a secure supply of quality sugarcane to the mills.
Oellermann said the donation of cane to Zikalala was “on his heart”. “I wanted to give back to the community. I think it is very important for any successful sugarcane farmer to start with good quality seedcane. I also know at times it can be very difficult and expensive for small-scale growers to acquire the certified seedcane. The success of our small-scale growers is an imperative for the future health of our industry,” Oellermann said.
Zikalala, who has farmed sugarcane for more than 40 years in the shadow of the Gledhow mill said at R595-a-ton, buying approved seedcane was beyond her reach.
“We are so grateful for this donation and the gift of six bags of fertiliser as well. We still need about five tons more, so hopefully someone will help us with that as well.”
She said they were also grateful for the advice given to her by SA Canegrowers’ regional representative, Nothando Buthelezi who pointed out to her that her cane was no longer producing at optimum and needed to be replanted.
“Growing sugarcane is the only thing we know, my children have gone to school and university because I have grown sugarcane,” she said.
Buthelezi valued the certified seedcane donated by Oellermann at R900-a-ton. “Zikalala has received this seedcane together with free transport from the commercial grower. The approved seedcane that’s sold locally is R597.76-a-ton, this cane from Oellermann is valued higher than that as it is certified,” she said.
Certified or approved
Certified seedcane is seed that has been heat treated for two hours at about 52°C before it is planted. When this cane is cut for the first time it is considered certified and is sold at a premium price. Certified cane becomes approved cane at the third and fourth harvest when it can still be used as seed usually in exceptional circumstances. Once the certified cane is in its fourth ratoon or harvesting cycle it is then considered commercial cane and suitable for processing only.
Buthelezi said since hearing an additional five tons was needed, Oellermann had committed to delivering a further load of seedcane to the Zikalala family.
Oellermann, who grew up farming with his father, has farmed since 1994 and now has 450ha under sugarcane, 50ha under macadamia trees and a further 23ha planted to tea trees which are harvested for their oil. “I have grown my own seedcane for about eight years. In the past I have delivered N55 and N58 in the area for the SA Canegrowers’ seedcane projects, but I thought it would be nice to try this variety as well as all three do well in our area. However, the valley climate where the Zikalala family farms is somewhat different to our climate so it will be interesting to see how it goes there,” he said.
Oellermann is a member of SA Canegrowers and serves as the grower representative on the Gledhow Mill Group Board, he also supplies certified seedcane for the Gledhow SA Canegrowers’ seedcane projects.
SA Canegrowers’ CEO Thomas Funke said the ongoing contribution by commercial growers to the viability of the small-scale sector of the industry was welcomed. “Without the small-scale growers South Africa’s sugar industry would have no future. This donation is vital for the future success of Mrs Zikalala’s farming operation and in an indirect way, the future success of the entire industry.”
Funke said South Africa’s sugarcane growing industry supported over one million people in rural areas in both direct and indirect income.