KZN sugar mills reject R84m worth of cane damaged in recent unrest

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In some cases, the cane burnt prior to mill closures will not be covered by insurance.
In some cases, the cane burnt prior to mill closures will not be covered by insurance.
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Sugar mills in KwaZulu-Natal have to date rejected 135 222 tons of sugar cane, valued at more R85 million, that was too damaged to process due to the recent unrest. 

The South African Cane Growers' Association said almost a third of the cane rejected thus far - more than 38 000 tons - belongs to small-scale growers who are most at risk of not recovering from revenue losses of this magnitude.

"The damage sustained has the potential to cripple the industry, which has already been struggling due to severe drought, the influx of cheap imports and the 'sugar tax'," the association said in a statement on Tuesday. 

It has written to government requesting immediate financial relief to be paid to growers, especially small-scale growers.

The association also fears that thousands of jobs in rural areas are at stake.

At the time of the riots, SA Cane Growers reported a running total of the potential damage to local cane growers as R300 million if mills could not crush the more than 500 000 tons of cane burnt in arson attacks. 

"These fears are now materialising. The majority of small-scale growers have no form of insurance," the association said.

In some cases, the cane burnt prior to mill closures will not be covered by insurance. According to the association, many mills only closed down after a large amount of cane had already been targeted by arsonists. 

"Furthermore, since industry transformation benefits are directly linked to the tonnage of cane delivered, small-scale growers whose cane is rejected stand to lose these benefits as well. The current sub-standard performance of some mills is also exacerbating grower losses," the association said.

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