What a year!
It gives me great pleasure to write a message on behalf of the South African Farmers Development Association (SAFDA), the newest entrant to the South African Sugar Association (SASA). It was only a few weeks ago that we were officially recognised as a grower representative organisation, through the gazetting of amendments to the Sugar Industry Agreement and the SASA Constitution by the Department of Trade and Industry.
Although there has been a lot of corridor talk around our existence, the reality is that we have been fighting for transformation of the sugar industry for the last three years.
When we walked out of the industry structures on 25 November 2015, it was because we felt very passionately that the voice of the black small-scale and land reform sugarcane farmers was not being heard in the industry – at the same time we believed that the sustainability of the South African sugar industry was dependent on ensuring the survival and growth of these categories of farmers.
We know that in the deep rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga sugarcane farming is often the only option for income generation for a number of poor households. In the same vein, it is a necessity to ensure that the cost of farming is reduced, to ensure that these disadvantaged farmers – who do not have the benefit of economies of scale – are uplifted through innovative methods.
Since December 2017, when SAFDA entered into transitional arrangements within the structures of SASA, we have also been working tirelessly to ensure that the industry also benefits from our presence.
In addition to ensuring that the voice of all progressive sugarcane farmers is heard in the highest decision-making structures of the industry, SAFDA was also instrumental in ensuring that transformation of the industry moves beyond size and race, but to diversification and sustainability into
At SAFDA, we are very proud of our accomplishments in the industry since then. In just a few months, we have already made a difference in the pockets of small-scale and land reform farmers through the 8 Transformation Interventions. Because of these interventions, which SAFDA fought very hard for in the industry boardrooms, R172 million has been allocated to farmers.
These interventions will see farmers benefiting from, among others, subsidisation of membership levies, transport costs, access to seed cane as well as a clear focus on women and youth.
In June 2018, SAFDA was chosen to lead the industry’s drive in this regard – and managed to mobilise over 2 000 sugarcane farmers, millers, other industry stakeholders, political parties as well as government leaders.
As a direct result of this action, the import duty was increased. Although it was not at the level requested by the industry, it has gone some way to stem imports, which were negatively impacting the price that farmers received for their sugarcane.
There is little doubt in my mind that we have made huge strides in a short period of time and with limited resources. Now that SAFDA has been formally welcomed to SASA, we have the opportunity to contribute sustainably to the development and growth of the South African sugar industry in general – and all progressive sugarcane farmers, in particular.
SAFDA Executive Chairman