A Sugar Value Chain Task Team has been set-up to seek solutions facing the sugar industry.
The establishment of the task team follows a meeting held at the Department of Trade and Industry’s (dti) premises on Monday. The meeting discussed challenges faced by the industry.
“The Task Team is between government and the private sector and composed of representatives from Beverage Industry, Retailers, South African Sugar Association (SASA), small holder farmers, small manufacturers and the Industrial Development Cooperation.
“The aim of the task team is to seek rapid solutions to the challenges facing the industry focusing on short, medium to long term plans,” said the Departments of Economic Development, Forestry & Fisheries and the dti in a joint statement.
The meeting was co-chaired by the Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies and the Minister of Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel.
The Task Team will hold its first meeting on Wednesday where it is expected that joint recommendations from the Task Team will be submitted to the Ministers concerned.
“There was a view that through collaboration between Government and Private Sector some better solutions in terms of inclusive growth, transformation, competitiveness and sustainability of the industry can be attained,” said the departments in their statement.
SASA Chairman Suresh Naidoo said the biggest threat to the industry has been the sustained increase of deep sea sugar imports, peaking at just around 500 000 tons in 2017/18 season.
The effect is that this imports displace locally produced sugar into the depressed global sugar market.
The South African Farmers Development Association (Safda) stated that prices for sugar cane have declined to such an extent that some growers have received negative statements at the end of the season and in fact owe to the millers.
Safda is of the view that local producers cannot compete against subsidised foreign countries and the sugar producing countries around the world offer their sugar industry a range of policy support measures to protect them against distorted world market.
The Beverage Industry made proposals regarding proposed interventions in support of small holder farmers in the sugar industry and also how to improve productivity in the sugar value chain.
Sugar is a strategic industry in South Africa, contributing an estimated R14-billion to the gross domestic product. The industry employs 85 000 people directly, and indirectly provides work for a further 350 000 people in food processing and other industries. – SAnews.gov.za