The SA Canegrowers’ Association has launched its Home Sweet Home campaign, which encourages South Africans to buy local sugar products to help safeguard the one million livelihoods the industry supports.

In the past, weak trade protection has seen a major increase in cheap sugar imports flooding South Africa from deep-sea countries such as Brazil, the United Arab Emirates as well as the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). For every ton of imported sugar that floods our shores, our local South African industry loses R4 000. These cheap, low-quality imports have caused the local industry to lose just over R2,2 billion in the last year alone.

A record level of sugar is expected to pour in from our neighbouring country this year. Eswatini for one is expected to produce 715 000 tons of sugar. More than half of this – plus some imports from other parts of the world – will land up in the South African market. It is important to note that Eswatini sugar enters South Africa free of any import tariff. This means that billions more stand to be lost during the 2020/21 season.

Conversely, our local industry has been forced to export domestic surplus onto a ‘dumped’ or over-supplied world market at a significant loss. This has left local South African growers with an eroded RV price (the price which growers are paid for their sugarcane). Devastatingly, at times the revenue is lower than the cost of producing a crop.

This has put the future of the South African sugarcane industry under serious threat, including the futures of our 21 000 black small-scale growers, 65 000 farm workers, as well as the 270 000 indirect jobs and the one million livelihoods the industry supports.

Introducing the Home Sweet Home campaign

To turn this tide, SA Canegrowers has launched its Home Sweet Home campaign, which will run over the next few months. The campaign will focus on educating and encouraging consumers to support the local industry and buy local sugar products, which is also some of the best quality sugar in the world.

Most importantly, Home Sweet Home will provide consumers with information on what to look out for when buying sugar. Specifically, consumers must look out for the Proudly South Africa logo or make sure the back of the bag says that the sugar is 100% produced in South Africa. This will ensure that they are contributing to a sweeter future for our industry and country.

The campaign kicked off with the launch of a billboard on the N3 highway in KwaZulu-Natal. This province is a key sugarcane growing region where sugarcane operations provide an economic backbone for the rural community. Moreover, this launch will be supplemented by further billboards across the country, together with online advertising.

SA Canegrowers is also pleased that their homegrown Home Sweet Home campaign is directly aligned to a key commitment in the recently finalised phase one of the Sugar Industry Masterplan, which will be rolled out over the next three years.

Action Commitment one of the Masterplan – ‘Restoring the local market and offtake commitments’ – aims to restore an initial 150 000 tons of sugar demand to the local sugar industry in the first two years. The goal is to increase this to 300 000 tons in year three.

To achieve this, retailers and wholesalers have committed to procure 80% of their sugar locally, rising to 95% in the third year. Furthermore, government will promote the use of local sugar by all government departments and state-owned entities. In turn, the sugar industry will actively promote local sugar to consumers and ensure there is visible labelling on local sugar packaging indicating that it is produced in South Africa.

Calling for a join effort

The sustainability of the industry has been under threat over recent years due to a confluence of simultaneous factors. This includes the weak protection against cheap imports, unprecedented droughts, plunging world sugar prices and a major drop in local demand for sugar due to the introduction of the Health Promotion Levy (HPL or sugar tax).

SA Canegrowers remains committed to continuing our work with government and the rest of the sector to create a thriving, profitable and sustainable local industry. We call on all South Africans to buy local sugar; together, we can save the one million livelihoods that the local industry supports. Because there is no place like home, sweet home. – Press release, SA Canegrowers