NATIONAL NEWS - Nkonzo Mhlongo, corporate affairs executive for Tongaat Hulett Sugar, shared that the lockdown period coincided with the start of the sugar industry’s milling season.
This meant that Tongaat had to open its mills while also embarking on a Covid-19 communication drive through the grower leadership.
“The donation of sanitisers to small-scale farmers has been linked with a communication drive to make sure all farmers associated with the company understand the economic, social and health risks connected with Covid-19. We are deeply concerned that a lack of compliance will have a dire effect on the farmers and surrounding rural communities,” explained Mhlongo.
Ntombenhle Gumede, a small-scale grower from Amatikulu, shared that when they entered the lockdown period, they did not know how they were going to protect themselves.
“To compound matters, our community does not have constant running water. The sanitisers from Tongaat Hulett came at the right time and it has been a great help to us. It has contributed to our effort as farmers of limiting the spread of the virus in our area. On the day of delivery, the extension officer also showed us how to use the sanitiser. This was very important to make sure that we and our customers are protected,” Gumede explained.
Mndeni Shozi, a small-scale grower from Felixton noted that when the coronavirus hits communities, they did not fully appreciate the social and health risks associated with the virus.
“We only realised the impact of Covid-19 when the extension officer shared the information on the virus. During her talk, she encouraged us to wash our hands, practice social distancing to limit the spread of the virus, and to use the sanitiser. We are really appreciative of the Tongaat Hulett’s support,” she added.
Mhlongo pointed out that the importance of the initiative is clear in light of the numbers of farmers working with Tongaat.
She explained that in 2019, there were 10 443 farmers supplying Tongaat Hulett Sugar including the commercial farmers, small-scale farmers and land reform growers and 94 percent these farmers were small-scale growers.
Combined, the Tongaat Hulett farmers delivered 2, 2 million tons of sugarcane for the season and 728, 000 tons came from the small-scale growers who farm for their own account.
“The tonnage shows that the small-scale growers are an important constituency within Tongaat Hulett and the sugar industry. They remain the largest driver of local economic development and promoter of sustainable livelihoods in rural communities in the areas where Tongaat Hulett operates. They created approximately 3037 jobs and paid R127 million in the form of wages last year,” concluded Mhlongo.