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A bitter pill for the sugar industry

Only two months ago, parliament was told that the country’s sugar industry was in serious trouble, mainly due to cheap imports, but that the sugar master plan would fix it.

The dark clouds were lifting, MPs heard. Because of the master plan, a revival was underway in an industry where production had dropped nearly 25% over 20 years, the number of farmers was down by 60% and jobs had decreased by 45%. Improvements were happening, and a planned acceleration of master plan implementation would result in further upliftment.

That acceleration will have to be reviewed after the industry, based in KwaZulu-Natal, was hit by the violence that rocked the province last week. The South African Canegrowers Association called for a state of emergency to halt the destruction.

In the middle of the harvest season, losses for growers and workers were irrecoverable, it said. Sugarcane worth more than R300 million had been set alight, and all sugar mills in the province had been closed.

Now there’s even more work to do.

Image: Fire at a sugarcane field in KwaZulu-Natal. Courtesy of SA Canegrowers.

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