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The big opportunity to expand small-scale sugarcane production under crisis conditions in the South African sugar industry  

Presenter: Alex Dubb
Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), PhD Student

The current crisis in the sugar industry provides an opportunity to protect and expand small-scale sugarcane production with regulatory reform and pro-poor land redistribution – potentially providing 13,000-60,000 minimum wage equivalents in value-added to KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga’s communal areas. Over forty years ago, amidst general crisis in sugar industry, small-scale sugarcane production emerged as one of the few cases ‘including’ poor communal areas in a formal value-chain: ultimately reaching up to around 50,000 farmers. Injurious regulatory reforms from the late 1990s, however, saw their numbers fall dramatically to under 20,000; further impacting the sugar mills they supply (particularly the currently embattled Tongaat-Hulett). Increasingly, focus shifted to large-scale land reform farmers and restitution projects, to significant acclaim, but with supports to small-scale sugarcane growers scaled-down, and increasingly reliant on government-funded initiatives. Current industry commitments to augment support to small-scale growers are significant, but could be more than doubled, without government subsidy, if mechanisms similar to those that underpinned small-growers original growth be adopted. If complemented by a re-imagined pro-poor, communal area farmer version of government’s current PLAS model of land-redistribution, the sugar industry’s crisis might be leveraged to offer one of the greatest opportunities for land reform successes in recent years.

Date: Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Time: 13h00-14h00
Venue: PLAAS Boardroom, 2nd Floor Main Hall, University of the Western Cape

For more information, contact: Joy van Dieman
Tel: 021 959 3754 or Email: