The South African Canegrowers Association says the running total of the damage to South African cane growers as a result of looting in KwaZulu-Natal stands at 353 000 tons of sugarcane that have been lost to arson.
Chairman Andrew Russell said this represents a revenue loss of more than R211 million.
Russell has called on the government to declare a state of emergency and to immediately deploy more South African Defence Force troops to bring law and order in hotspot areas.
“KwaZulu-Natal is not only ground zero for the unrest, but also the heart of South Africa’s sugar industry. Gauteng has also been hit hard, with the destruction now extending to Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape,” he said.
“The lawlessness evident throughout the country has caused enormous harm to the national economy. That this is taking place in the middle of the harvesting season has caused irrecoverable losses to cane growers, workers, and the one million livelihoods that depend on the sugar industry.”
According to Russell, all sugar mills in KZN have been forced to cease operations as they cannot receive cane or distribute sugar and molasses owing to disruptions to transport routes and blockades at these mills.
Workers have also been threatened, further prompting mills to shut down in order to protect their staff.
“The damage already sustained will cripple the industry long after the unrest has been quelled, resulting in job losses in rural areas where unemployment is rife. Without immediate and drastic measures to restore the rule of law, the ongoing damage to critical infrastructure may soon become irreparable.”
He added that the association is communicating and cooperating with the -government as well as community and industry organisations to prevent and mitigate as much of the damage as possible.