SA faces sugar shortage as local producers hit ‘slight supply dip’
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CAPE TOWN - INDUSTRIAL buyers of refined sugar say there has been no production of the condiment in the market since the beginning of this month.
The Association of Southern Africa Sugar Importers (Asasi) chairperson and Super Syrups founder Chris Engelbrecht told Business Report this week that Tongaat Hulett confirmed on March 26 to Super Syrups that it could draw on their quota, but was told on March 31 that Tongaat’s mills were being shut down for a few weeks and the first supply would be available only on May 1.
“Now they have confirmed it won’t be before the end of May. It is already too late for us to import what we need to make up for the delay,” said Engelbrecht.
He said Ilovo, RCL and Gledhow did not have sugar to supply Super Syrups or any other industry now or in the near future, and the supply of imported sugar from Swaziland had also shut down.
Super Syrups needed 500 tons of refined sugar urgently for April production. “If we knew that the local producer couldn’t supply, we would have imported a percentage as always,” he said, adding that the current hiatus in the market was likely to lead to higher imports.
He said they were trying to support local producers per the Sugar Industry Master Plan, but not one of Asasi’s members had any sugar available.
South Africa’s sugar is produced from a range of sugar companies and mills, including Gledhow Sugar Company, Illovo Sugar Africa, RCL Foods Sugar, Tongaat Hulett Sugar South Africa, UCL and Umfolozi Sugar Mills.
Some of the country’s leading producers, however, claimed that the shortages were only a seasonal-based and temporary slowing of demand.
Illovo Group communications manager Chris FitzGerald said local sugar producers produced sugar for the local market for nine months, and sold for 12 months of the year, with the season ending at the end of March.
FitzGerald said the slowdown in production was normally “a temporary, slight dip” in availability towards the end of March.
He said local sugar producers did their best to ensure that the market was sufficiently supplied with sugar through this period, with preference given to long-term clients.
Tongaat Hulett spokesperson Virginia Horsley said the group’s sugar refinery was shut for three weeks for annual maintenance, and sugar stocks “may be slightly constrained, depending on sales over the next few weeks”.