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Sugar imports hurt small-scale farmers

MORE than 60 black small-scale sugarcane farmers, who are members of the South African Farmers Development Association (SAFDA), attended Parliament in support of the sugar industry’s application to curb sugar imports by increasing the sugar tariff.

Owing to the ineffective duty on imported sugar, small-scale sugarcane farmers are struggling to survive.

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, Joan Marie Fubbs, expressed her concern when shown cane payment statements, which reflected zero payment for the 2017-2018 season.

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 for farmers is raising required capital to replant their fields, purchase fertiliser and cover 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.

Small parcels of land

Small-scale farmers have small plots of land, sometimes as little as 0.5 hectares, so economies of scale are not feasible Members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, the International Trade Administration Commission of SouthAfrica (ITAC) and SARS, among other key role players in the sugar industry, undertook to address the matter.

A resolution is expected by July, giving hope to the more than 20 000 small-scale sugarcane farmers.

Larry Bentley

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