Fewer mills affect small-scale sugar cane farmers in KZN

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Sugarcane fields on a Tongaat Hulett farm in Shongweni. The sugar needs of the region are comprehensively met on our doorstep.PHOTO: Reuters
Sugarcane fields on a Tongaat Hulett farm in Shongweni. The sugar needs of the region are comprehensively met on our doorstep.PHOTO: Reuters

The South African Farmers Development Association (Safda) has called for urgent action to “avert a looming crisis”, which is already hitting small-scale sugarcane farmers.

“It should be noted that for most small-scale sugar growers, the sugar cane proceeds is what stops them from falling below the poverty line.”
SA Farmers Development Association.

With two of only 14 mills in the country having recently shut down in Port Shepstone on the KZN South Coast and Darnall on the KZN North Coast, there is not enough milling capacity to crush the sugarcane crop that farmers produce per season, Safda boss Siyabonga Madlala said in a statement.

Safda boss, Siyabonga Madlala.
South African Farmers Development Association (Safda) executive chairperson, Siyabonga Madlala.

Safda estimates that at the current crush rates at Tongaat Hulett Sugar Mills in Amatigulu in Gingindlovu and Felixton in Empangeni alone, farmers delivering to these mills will collectively forego about R500 million in income this year.

ALSO READ | Small sugarcanefarmers in KZN desperate for help after fires.

Safda said the problem stems from ratable deliveries allocations that are based on estimated crop for each farmer per season.

Safda said the solution is that all mills must honour their obligation to crush all of the small-scale grower sugarcane as per the “tacit contract” of submitting and accepting crop estimates.

“It should be noted that for most small-scale sugar growers, the sugar cane proceeds is what stops them from falling below the poverty line,” Safda said.

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