South African Farmers Development Association meets with DTI

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry met with the aggrieved South African Farmers Development Association (Safda) on Thursday to hear its concerns regarding not being recognised by the South African Sugar Association (Sasa) and the South African Cane Growers’ Association (Sacga).

The Committee acknowledged that this is an urgent matter and that swift action should be taken. The Committee proposed that the Minister should consider amendments to the Sugar Act of 1978 and the regulations to address the recognition of alternative associations including Safda. Committee Chairperson, Ms Joanmariae Fubbs, emphasised that the Committee wants a progress report from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) within 14 days.

The Committee heard that Safda had previously taken its concerns to the DTI and a directive, via a letter, was sent to the Sasa and Sacga – requesting them to address the issues and emphasising the importance of economic transformation in the sugar industry. Specifically, the importance of accommodating black players in this industry, stating that the status quo cannot be allowed to continue. In this letter, the DTI reminded the parties of a mediated agreement that was signed on 24 November 2016 that has not been implemented.

Safda indicated to the Committee that the portion of grower levies due to them should be allocated and directly released to them accordingly by the Sasa. Safda is a member-based, voluntary non-profit association of emerging and small-scale farmers. It was formed in 2015 to represent their developmental needs within the sugar industry. The industry operates under the Sugar Act of 1978 which was last amended in 1992.

The DTI highlighted: “Black farmers, although since the repeal of the 1936 Sugar Act in 1978 are no longer illegals, they are still treated as second-class citizens by the Sasa. The sugar milling sector remains totally untransformed.”

Ms Fubbs said: “We are allowing an apartheid situation to continue by not doing anything. We cannot allow for this to continue. Urgent action is required and demanded, especially since the agreement between the parties have been flouted.”

Ms Fubbs said the Committee will soon meet with the DTI for an update on the matter.

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