JOHANNESBURG - THE SOUTH African Canegrowers Association yesterday urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to fast-track action to implement the elusive master plan for the struggling sugar industry.
The association’s chairman Rex Talmage said that weak trade protection these past years had resulted in the influx of cheap sugar imports which had caused losses of over R2.2 billion for the industry.
Talmage said the implementation of the masterplan, signed in November 2020, could deal with existing threats to the R16bn industry, including cheap sugar imports and the Health Promotion Levy.
“Government and other stakeholders in the sugar industry have no time to lose in bringing the Masterplan’s commitments to fruition,” Talmage said.
“SA Canegrowers has written to President Ramaphosa as well as Ministers Patel and Didiza to offer support and assistance to the government in order to fast-track action on its commitments under the Sugar Industry Masterplan.”
Ramaphosa will deliver the State of the Nation Address on Thursday where he is expected to prioritise Covid-19 vaccination programme and growth-boosting reforms.
Talmage said they had committed to restoring an initial 150 000 tons of sugar demand to the local sugar industry in the first two years, with the goal of increasing this to 300 000 tons in year three.
Other undertakings include retailers and wholesalers procuring 80 percent of their sugar locally, and the government promoting the use of local sugar by all its departments and state-owned entities.
The sugar industry accounts for a significant portion of employment in the agricultural sector, with 22 949 growers who directly employ more than 65 000 workers across the country.
The industry’s call follows that of the business sector which has lobbied Ramaphosa for a credible vaccine roll-out strategy and clarifying the economic road.
In his 2020 SONA, Ramaphosa said the government would take critical actions to build a capable state and place the economy on the path to recovery. But that was before the country was suddenly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic as it was emerging from a technical recession and credit ratings downgrade.
More organisations have urged Ramaphosa to announce concrete steps for the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan. Business Leadership SA said business wanted a clear rollout plan.