There is a need for the SA sugar industry to consider diversifying its product offerings amid fears that increasing imported sugar could cripple the domestic sugar value chain, the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) said.
This followed a meeting with Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies and the South African Cane Growers Association (SACGA) to discuss the impact of imported sugar on sugar cane growers in particular.
The industry highlighted the challenges they face and the need for urgency in finding solutions before the situation deteriorates to becoming an existential threat for the survival of the sugar growers.
This as the industry already suffered a massive reduction in sales to the beverage sector as they reformulated away from sugar.
"Exploratory discussion about finding solutions led to the recommendation that the industry as a whole needs to propose a long-term vision and industrial plan that takes into account the impact of global developments and the shifting landscape in the sugar industry," the dti said.
It was also agreed that relevant stakeholders need to meet to consider the various options available.
"Both the Department and the South African Cane Growers Association agreed that there is a need to urgently address the potential threats associated with an increasing replacement of local sugar with imports, particularly with unemployment. The meeting agreed to seek rapid solutions to the challenges facing the sugar industry focusing on short, medium to long-term plans."
The meeting concluded that the tariff support provided to the industry should be complemented by improving competitiveness of the domestic industry to ensure its long term continued viability.
The dti also called on the industry to look at bio based niche product markets in order to increase sustainability, grow the revenue source and contribute as a transformed, competitive and profitable job creating industry.