Ayanda Mdluli

Black ownership of land under commercial sugar cane production had increased to 21 percent, outperforming other commodities in the agricultural sector, SA Sugar Association (Sasa) chairman Bongani Linda said yesterday.

Addressing sugar industry stakeholders at a sustainable land reform event hosted by Sasa, Linda said the industry would reach its target of 30 percent black land ownership by 2014.

“We are the only commodity organisation to have achieved this result,” he said.

The theme for the annual sugar cane industry function this year was sustainable land reform.

Linda said the success of land reform in sugar cane growing could be attributed to the partnerships between big business and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, which has been instrumental in pioneering the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (Plas) programme.

The initiative has assisted the industry in its quest to acquire land, which is then leased to growers on a trial lease period.

“The industry has worked with the provincial offices of KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga to develop an industry specific manual to support the Plas programme… We have developed a database of successful small- and medium-scale growers,” he said.

Gugile Nkwinti, the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, praised the leadership of the sugar cane industry for the way they had dealt with the land reform question in KwaZulu-Natal.

On average, only 7 percent of land in other commodities was in the hands of black people.

The sugar cane industry’s achievement of 21 percent was a step in the right direction.

“Leadership makes a huge difference… delivery takes place on the ground… it’s not just about political leadership,” the minister said.

The industry has about 130 000ha of land under sugar cane production.

Restitution claims represent 39 percent of the land under commercial production.

Linda revealed that more than 29 000ha was currently held by willing sellers.

“Progress has been slow in addressing these willing sellers, but I believe that it is now gaining momentum,” Linda said.

“Sasa and the regional Land Claims Commission have agreed to develop an industry specific business process for the restitution programme.”