Hundreds of people protested against cheap sugar imports outside the department of trade and industry’s offices in Sunnyside on Tuesday.
The protesters believe that sugar imported from countries such as Brazil, Guatemala, the UAE and Thailand is undermining the local industry and could result in major local job losses.
More than a million people depend on the sugar industry for their livelihoods, according to South African sugar association chairman Suresh Naidoo.
It is estimated that the South African sugar industry creates about 85 000 so-called “direct” jobs and 350 000 “indirect” jobs.
“Jobs within the industry are at risk due to the unprecedented high volumes of sugar imports entering our shores, resulting in a major loss of South African local market share.”
Imports in the 2017/2018 season amounted to more than 500 000 tons.
“This is equivalent to the production ofthree milling companies, together with the jobs they create as well as the farmers that supply these milling companies,” said Naidoo.
He said if this import trend continued, three milling companies would have to close down.
“The results will be catastrophic. Jobs, economic activity and livelihoods will be dismantled.”
“Effectively, this is like exporting jobs to other countries. As a result, the industry has been forced to reduce prices to unsustainable levels to be competitive.”
Trade and industry director general Lionel October accepted the memorandum on behalf of minister Rob Davies.
October told protesters the government understood the plight faced by the industry “We know the industry is bleeding,” he said.
“We had a meeting three weeks ago to look at this problem and the tariff application is currently being looked at and this matter will be fast-tracked.