Non-profit trade organisation FairPlay Movement enthusiastically supports the South African Sugar Master Plan as a mechanism to stabilise and rebuild the industry after devastating and predatory imports have gained market share and killed local jobs for years.
“Like the poultry sector master plan before it, the sugar master plan is an agreement by government and the industry that aims to curb imports and enable the industry to grow and create jobs. It is a tribute to all those involved, and to the leadership of Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel and Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza,” asserts FairPlay founder Francois Baird.
Baird adds that FairPlay welcomes the increasing involvement and development of black and small-scale farmers, the planned diversification into job-creating projects such as fuel ethanol and electricity generation, and the undertaking by local retailers and wholesalers to increase their purchases of local sugar.
“Innovation is essential for the resuscitation of the sugar industry, and projects that use sugar in new and different ways will help sustain production and rural jobs. South Africa is not the only sugar-producing country seeking innovative solutions to its sugar production problem. We need to join international efforts while encouraging further local research and development. “Why can we not replace plastic packaging with cane ethanol biopackaging and bottles?”
Baird points out that sugar is an ideal source of ethanol for blending into vehicle fuels. It is green and renewable, its use does not diminish food security and it would help the country meet its commitments to lower the national carbon footprint.
He stresses however that regular plans and updates over the years have not resulted in any viable undertakings.
The regulatory framework was updated again last year, and we hope that the sugar industry master plan will deliver the final push that gets a sugar-based ethanol industry going in South Africa.”
The sugar industry has been in decline and was threatened with collapse, according to Baird.
He highlights that the master plan contains sensible measures that will help its recovery by diversifying the industry, developing new products, opening up new markets and increasing local production and employment.
“The government should also review other policy measures that impact the sugar industry, like the sugar tax that is supposed to make South Africans healthier. “Are we indeed healthier as a result, or are we just poorer and have more sugar workers unemployed? “At the very least, the sugar tax should be invested in ethanol, biopackaging or sugar industry product development,” he concludes.