Explainer: Why are South African sugarcane farmers protesting?

Explainer: Why are South African sugarcane farmers protesting?

- South African sugar cane farmers from across the country have embarked on nationwide protest action

- The South African Sugar Association has been lobbying the Department of Trade and Industry to reinstate tariffs on sugar imports

- The tariff was used to block cheap imports and protect local producers and their business interests

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Disgruntled South African sugar cane farmers from across the country have embarked on nationwide protest action over fears of job losses caused by an increase of cheap sugar imports. The South African Sugar Association (SASA) has been lobbying the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to reinstate tariffs on sugar imports.

The tariffs were used to block cheap imports and to protect local producers, their business interests and around 85 000 jobs.

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SADA said the current situation was putting local sugar cane farmers out of business and presented a threat to the entire industry.

Briefly.co.za gathered that South African Farmers Development Association (SAFDA) deputy secretary, Francis Moonsamy said local producers had been investing heavily in their businesses and in some cases had used their pension money and savings to prop up their business.

Moonsamy said members had dropped from 50 000 to just over 15 000 since the tariffs were abandoned. He noted that this drop was because of farms going bust.

Thesouthafrican.com reported that around a quarter of local farms had been overtaken by cheap imports. The price of sugar cane has dropped from R4 500 per tonne to R3 700 per tonne while input costs such as fuel, labour and even VAT have dramatically risen.

This led a group of small-scale farmers to travel from KwaZulu-Natal to Cape Town in order to protest outside of Cape Town.

Farmers and workers alike have expressed their concern about the threat of cheap sugar imports posed to the local industry. Reports indicate that most local farmers were lucky to reach a break-even point in 2017 while in most cases farmers were forced to take on huge amounts of debt.

The DA joined the fray in a march on Tuesday and demanded that the government reinstate tariffs in order to protect farmers, workers and the future of children.

More than 1 500 sugar cane farmers and workers in the industry are expected to take part in various marches planned across the country in the coming days.

The DA’s shadow minister of trade and industry Dean Macpherson said: “We must tell the DTI that they can’t just act quickly when one industry is crying and not the other. When the steel industry is in trouble they run to help it. When the farmers are asking for help, they’re sitting on their hands doing nothing, dololo, nothing.”

Parliament’s portfolio committee on trade and industry has undertaken to look into the concerns of SASA as a matter of utmost importance.

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Source: Briefly.co.za

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