Cane harvest to be delayed

2011-01-19 00:00

SUGAR cane farmers on the South Coast can expect a decent harvest only much later than is usually expected, according to a statement by the South African Cane Growers’ Association.

Both the south and north coasts have felt the effect of the severe droughts that plagued the province last year.

According to the statement, the above-average rainfall received in November and December last year will not be enough to eliminate the impact of the 2010 drought.

Said the communications manager of the association, Jayne Ferguson, “The good rains which have continued into January 2011 are much appreciated as they have fallen in the period of planting, promoting good germination and rapid growth.

“However, due to the drought in 2010 and the associated impacts such as cane root mortality and the forced harvest of young cane — which under normal conditions would have been carried over to the 2011/12 season — it is expected that there will be little cane to be harvested in the first half of the 2011/12 season.”

It is expected that the north and south coasts will feel the impact of this the most.

“It is unlikely that there will be any considerable harvesting until later in the season [in these areas],” Ferguson continued.

“Consequently, these growers are likely to experience cash flow problems and will have to secure production finance.”

The situation is not all bad, however.

“An average to above-average rainfall this year is likely to result in significant carry-over at the end of the 2011/12 season,” Ferguson said.

“This will bring an above-average production in 2012/13, leading to a positive cash flow situation.”

A local cane grower and representative of the small-scale growers’ association, Desmond Naidoo, agreed that the situation on the South Coast is dire.

He said it would take towards the latter half of the new growing season (April to December) for the situation to rectify itself.

“We were hit really hard; there are some farms that have just been left barren because there are no finances available for the farmers to replant,” he said.

“What we did last season was barely enough to cover costs and didn’t allow for any money to be ploughed back into the farms, which is what the main problem is.”

Naidoo explained that during the drought farmers were producing 15 to 20 tons of cane per hectare when an average season would see them producing 75 to 90 tons per hectare.

“The production finance that we need is the money needed for the upkeep of the farms,” added Naidoo.

“This comes from banks usually, but many of the farms are far too small and considered a risk so they will have a difficult time surviving.”

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