THE INCREASE in sugar imports has an unavoidable impact on the competitiveness of the sugar industry, says the South African Cane Growers' Association. Supplied

JOHANNESBURG – Sugar imports are threatening the domestic South African sugar industry and urgent solutions have to be found, according to the local cane growers’ organisation. 

Department of Trade and Industry (dti) Minister Rob Davies met the South African Cane Growers’ Association (Sacga) to discuss the impact of imported sugar on the sugar value chain in South Africa in general and on sugar cane growers in particular.

The cane growers indicated that the increases in sugar imports had an unavoidable impact on the competitiveness of the South African sugar industry. The industry had suffered a massive reduction in sales to the beverage sector as they reformulated away from sugar.

The industry highlighted the problems they faced and the need for urgency in finding solutions before the situation deteriorated to becoming an existential threat for the survival of the sugar growers, the dti said.

Exploratory discussions about finding solutions led to the recommendation that the industry as a whole needed to propose a long-term vision and industrial plan that took into account the impact of global developments and the shifting landscape in the sugar industry.

It was agreed that the relevant stakeholders needed to meet to consider the various options available. Both the department and Sacga agreed that the potential threats associated with an increasing replacement of local sugar with imports, particularly with high unemployment, had to be urgently addressed.

The meeting agreed to seek rapid solutions to the problems facing the sugar industry focusing on short-, medium-, to long-term plans, the dti said. The meeting concluded that the tariff support provided to the industry should be complemented by improving competitiveness of the domestic industry to ensure its long-term continued viability.

The South African sugar industry had to consider diversifying its product offerings and look at bio-based niche product markets to increase sustainability, grow the revenue source, and contribute as a transformed, competitive, and profitable job creating industry, the dti said. 

African News Agency (ANA)