Durban - More than 1 900 Makhathini small-scale sugar cane farmers are set to save millions on operational costs after a piece of farm equipment, called a Spiller, was handed over to them this week.
The machine arrived from Brazil at the Durban harbour this week.
The Spiller, which loads and offloads sugar cane, was handed over to the farmers by the South African Farmers’ Development Association (SAFDA) as part of the Mkhuze rail siding project.
SAFDA spokesperson Nondumiso Mlondo said the Spiller was procured by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) following a plea for assistance by the farmers.
“DALRRD agreed to fund the operationalisation of Mkhuze siding to the tune of R30 million to support the small-scale farmers for the transport of their cane by rail to the Felixton mill,” she said.
Mlondo said the project would assist about 1 900 Makhathini small-scale farmers who have been struggling for some time.
Mlondo said the farmers had been paying R170 a ton to transport their cane to Felixton sugar mill, but with the new transloading station, their total costs would be reduced to R112 a ton she said.
“At approximately 117 000 tons of sugar cane from Makhathini currently a year, this equates to a total saving of R6.8 million a year for these small-scale farmers,” said Mlondo.
Mazwi Simelane, chairperson of the Makhathini small-scale farmers, said the farmers were very happy to receive the Spiller.
Simelane said the cane farmers had been struggling since last year to transport their sugar cane about 240km by rail to the Felixton sugar Mill.
Simelane said an alternative had to be found.
“I decided to go to the the director general of the Department of Agriculture and sat down with his team to explain our problems,” he said.
Simelane said an official from the department came to KZN to speak to the farmers and agreed that their operation was viable and the project was then approved.
Simelane said the Spiller would benefit not only would the 1 900 farmers who use the Felixton mill, but also the other cane farmers who go to the uMfolozi and uPongola sugar mills.
In total there were over 3 000 farmers who would benefit, he said.