South African sugar industry forced to transform

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Ayanda Mdluli

JOHANNESBURG- Following pressure from government and a black farmers collective that has been fighting to transform cane growers in the country, the South African Sugar Association (SASA) has conceded to make constitutional changes to include black players in the economic benefits of the sugar industry.

In an announcement earlier on Wednesday, the SASA Council said it has unanimously adopted constitutional amendments which will mark the beginning of a new era for the sugar industry.

The new amendments, which form part of a long-term solution would be implemented at the beginning of the new season on 1 April 2018.

Earlier this year, the Department of Trade and Industry had threatened to revise the sugar industry agreement and the SASA’s constitution to guarantee larger representation of black sugar cane farmers if the organisation did not transformation its constitution.

Black farmers in SA are still at the margins of lucrative markets in an industry that remains white dominated.

This is exacerbated by the fact that black farmers still needed to contend with a selection process for land and funding that is largely inefficient, not well aligned and time consuming which negatively impacts agricultural production impacting them negatively.

SASA, a statutory body representing the country’s sugar industry as per the Sugar Act of 1978, currently has two members – the South African Cane Growers’ Association (SACGA) and the South African Sugar Millers’ Association (SASMA).

Trix Trikam, SASA’s executive director said the new changes to the constitution will see the reconfiguration of these two members to ensure they are more inclusive and representative.

Before the amendments, SCGA was the only recognised association which represented mainly white cane growers which had a monopoly over the industry

“The two members of SASA shall now be called Cane Farmers’ Federation (CFF) and Sugar Milling & Refining Federation (SMRF). CFF will be made up of SACGA, the South African Farmers Development Association (SAFDA) and others. The CFF representation will be determined on the basis of cane delivery and membership. The SMRF will be based on proportional representation (members/production). Both CFF and SMRF will each have 16 Councillors on the SASA Council,” he said.

In addition, the SASA Council also approved the payment of retrospective levies to SAFDA and any other SAFDA costs for the period 25 November 2015 to 31 March 2018.

In another unprecedented development, Trikam said the SASA Council will have an independent chairperson, and there will be a Department of Trade and Industry observer at all SASA Council meetings.

“In the meantime, the interim measures include the granting of three SAFDA members an observer status with a voice on Council with immediate effect,” added Trikam.

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