NATIONAL NEWS - The South African Canegrowers’ Association says the new Sugar Industry Masterplan is set to change things for the better for both farmers and local communities.
“We have always envisaged working with government to improve people’s lives.
“With government getting on board, we hope small scale farmers, who have been struggling, will get to benefit.
“We are now going to be able to assist our youth, who want to get involved in the farming industry,” said the deputy chairperson of the South African Canegrowers’ Association, Dipuo Ntuli.
SAnews met Ntuli on a media tour of sugarcane farms in Pongola, KwaZulu-Natal.
The masterplan was signed last month by Trade, Industry and Competition Minister, Ebrahim Patel and the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, alongside industry stakeholders.
The plan seeks to take urgent action to protect thousands of jobs, rural livelihoods and businesses, while creating diversified revenue streams for sugar producers, and deliver significant new job opportunities.
As part of the plan, industrial users and retailers have agreed to a minimum offtake of sugar for a period of three years, with at least 80% of sugar consumption to come from South African farms and millers during the first year, increasing to 95% by 2023.
Among other things, the masterplan will promote sugarcane value chains, making them competitive and sustainable in order to preserve and grow rural employment and sustainable livelihoods.
Ntuli said the industry is optimistic that the masterplan will open up new opportunities. She was grateful that government kept the industry doors open during the hard lockdown.
“We were happy as cane growers to be counted among the essential workers during the lockdown, and the industry was operating during the height of COVID-19.”
Ntuli said the thrust of the association is to put the needs of farmers first, especially small scale farmers. Transformation in the sector, said Ntuli, is something they have been striving for. Through the association, farmers are also given support.
Theuns Theunissen, a regional manager at the South African Cranegrowers’ Association, echoed Ntuli’s sentiments, saying transformation and make farming sustainable are two of their top priorities.
“We were also trying to focus on diversifying our crops,” he said.
Theunissen said government’s support, through the masterplan, will ensure that local products are on the shelves.
Theunissen encouraged South Africans to support and buy locally.
Mbukeni Nyembe, a sugar cane farmer just outside Pongola and a member of the South African Cranegrowers’ Association, said he is happy that cane growers are now going to get the support they need to survive.
Growing local industry
Nyembe has for many years been involved in sugar cane farming.
“I thank government for coming on board to assist us, as we have been struggling because of [imports]. With the new masterplan, we hope that things will be better for small scale farmers,” Nyembe said.
Nyembe said the masterplan means they can expand their businesses and employ more people.
“People are starving because they are not working. As farmers, we want to assist by employing more people,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za