Small-scale sugarcane farmers bear the brunt of sugar imports Durban, KwaZulu-Natal (13 June 2018): Over 60 black small scale sugarcane farmers who are members of the South African Farmers Development Association (SAFDA) yesterday arrived at Parliament – after an 18-hour bus journey from KwaZulu-Natal – to show their support for the sugar industry’s application to stop sugar imports by increasing the sugar tariff.
Due to the ineffective duty on imported sugar, black sugarcane farmers from SAFDA are struggling to survive. Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, Joan Marie Fubbs, expressed her concern when viewing a number of cane payment statements, that small scale sugarcane farmers received, which showed that a large number of small scale farmers received R0 payment for the 2017-2018 seasons.
Other statements showed that farmers were in the red and have been forced to start a new season with high levels of indebtedness.
The challenge with this in the agricultural space is that farmers require capital to replant their fields, to purchase fertiliser and for general operating costs.
Starting a new season with a zero or negative balance means that small-scale farmers are already highly indebted and have little or no chance of securing capital. This in turn has a catastrophic effect on the rural economies of KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.
It is worth noting that small-scale sugarcane farmers have small plots of land, sometimes as little as 0.5 hectares, so economies of scale are not feasible.
Sugar produced outside South Africa is flooding the local market and as a result black small scale sugarcane farmers are in dire straits – as are rural economies.
Members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, The International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa (ITAC) and SARS among other key role players in the sugar industry yesterday undertook to deal with the matter urgently – with a resolution expected in July 2018 – giving hope to the over 20 000 black small-scale sugarcane farmers in South Africa.