Durban – SA Canegrowers believes that it is critical for both the government and all industry stakeholders to commit to safeguarding the future of growers and the sector as a whole in accordance with the industry’s master plan.
Elaborating on the meeting, SA Canegrowers’ chairperson Andrew Russell said the committee was established to oversee the implementation of the master plan, and it comprised representatives from government departments and the sugar industry role players.
The executive oversight committee met on Wednesday to discuss the conclusion of phase one of the sugar cane value chain master plan, to find common ground on the way forward.
Russell said the meeting and the master plan conclusion came amid a crisis that is engulfing the milling sector.
He said the entry of two millers into business rescue in recent months caused ripple effects throughout the sugar cane industry.
“Critically, the business rescue practitioners at these companies have encouraged defaults on original obligations amounting to R1.5 billion to the industry that have left growers and industry partners in a highly precarious financial position and facing an uncertain future.”
Russell said that that included a commitment to continue protecting the industry against cheap sugar and restoring demand for local sugar. He added that for its part, SA Canegrowers planned to continue its “Home Sweet Home” campaign, which he said educated and encouraged consumers to buy locally produced sugar.
Russell stated that transformation of the industry also remained another key priority, with more than R187 million disbursed thus far, under the auspices of the master plan to support small-scale growers.
He further said good progress continued to be made on critical projects, such as the development of a sustainable aviation fuels industry, which he said will position the industry for sustainable, long-term growth and job creation.
“Given the industry’s investment in the execution of this project, we cannot let these gains be lost. With developing countries like India and Brazil fast-tracking investment in the growth of this nascent industry, South Africa cannot afford to fall behind.
“SA Canegowers therefore hopes that key commitments to ensure this project continues would be made, including the rapid development of a suitable regulatory framework by the government, to keep the project moving forward,” Russell said.
In addition to the need to maintain the gains made in the master plan’s proactive projects, Russell added, the industry also cannot afford any reversals in the effort to address the risks to the industry.
He further said these included any future increases in the Health Promotion Levy, or sugar tax, which remained an ongoing threat to the survival of growers and the livelihoods they support.
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