Contributions by sugarcane organisation the South African (SA) Canegrowers made up a significant portion of R225-million that was distributed to small-scale growers in January, after funds were distributed to help combat severe challenges that continue to plague the industry, including cheap foreign imports, the Health Promotion Levy (HPL), or sugar tax, and the unrest in July 2021.
SA Canegrowers has assisted its 21 000 small-scale growers, the vast majority of small-scale growers in the industry.
Overall, more than R600-million has been distributed over the past three years and SA Canegrowers remains committed to working with industry partners to continue this vital work in a responsible, transparent, and fully accountable manner.
On May 10, SA Canegrowers, government and other industry stakeholders addressed Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Trade, Industry and Competition on industry transformation and the implementation of the Sugarcane Value Chain Masterplan.
This engagement is part of a shared commitment to the success of the Masterplan, and to ensure the long-term profitability and sustainability of the industry.
At the portfolio committee address, SA Canegrowers vice chairperson Kiki Mzoneli spoke about the continued need to support women, youth, and disabled growers.
SA Canegrowers was also pleased by the committee’s recognition of its work through its “Home Sweet Home” campaign that was launched in December 2020. The campaign encourages local consumers to buy locally-produced sugar, which is an industry commitment under the masterplan.
This campaign has attracted significant support from a number of stakeholders, including the Shoprite Group and Proudly SA.
However, SA Canegrowers also welcomed statements made by committee members that greater steps were required to protect the local industry against the ongoing threat of cheap sugar imports.
During the portfolio committee briefing, SA Canegrowers also reported on the progress of work on sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) under the Masterplan – efforts backed up by a recent report by the World Wide Fund for Nature showing that sugar molasses is the most affordable way to make SAF.
This, SA Canegrowers says, is an opportunity for the industry to build a more sustainable future, and the organisation plans to continue to drive this project under the masterplan.
In addition, portfolio committee members highlighted the importance of government finalising the regulatory framework for SAF.
Meanwhile, the diversification of sugarcane growers into other income streams was identified as a critical factor for the industry’s long-term sustainability, and in this regard, SA Canegrowers supports the portfolio committee’s call for more concerted efforts to finalise this work.
SA Canegrowers notes that the HPL has long threatened the livelihoods that the industry supports, and the organisation has repeatedly called for further study into the impact of the tax on achieving its stated aim of reducing obesity levels in South Africa.
In this regard, SA Canegrowers says it is disappointed by the confirmation that work had not started on a dietary intake study envisioned under the masterplan.
“We hope to see this work begin as soon as possible so that government can implement evidence-based policies to support the success of the Masterplan,” says SA Canegrowers in a statement.
SA Canegrowers also supports the call for a joint meeting with the departments of Health and Finance, among others, to have a holistic discussion about the HPL.
SA Canegrowers will continue to work with industry stakeholders to build a robust and accountable legislative framework to deliver a brighter future for the industry. As such, SA Canegrowers has invited the committee to visit KwaZulu-Natal.
SA Canegrowers states that it is committed to supporting Parliament in its oversight work as an integral part of saving the one-million livelihoods that depend on the South African sugar industry.