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KZN unrest – sugar industry hardest hit

As the KZN unrests continue, the Kwa-Zulu Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu) has warned off the impending food crisis in the province.

“The looming food crisis is only going to get worse; not only have most shops being destroyed in smaller towns around KZN, but now farmers are unable to keep up production to be able to supply the country with the massive volumes consumed daily” said Kwanalu CEO Sandy La Marque.

While the KZN unrests has wreaked havoc, the sugar cane industry has already started calculating the losses to be somewhere in the region of 35 000 tons to date.

“At R600 per ton, this represents a revenue loss of more than R211 million” according to Chairman of the SA Canegrowers Association Andre Russel.

All millers in KZN have ceased operations as the knock-on effect is rippling the sugar industry apart. Worse, workers have been allegedly threatened which further prompted the mills to shut down.

Russel added that all sugar mills in KZN “could not receive cane or distribute sugar and molasses owing to disruptions to transport routes and blockades at these mills.”

At last review, the sugar industry created approximately 85 000 direct jobs, which according to South African Sugar Association (SASA) represented over ‘11% of the total agricultural workforce in South Africa.’

The sugar industry was one of KZN’s biggest income generating belts. Overall, the sugar industry generated close to R14 billion annually, with over 1 million of South Africa’s population depending on the product.

Kwanalu has estimated losses for the KZN agricultural community to run into billions of rands. La Marque added: “We are not yet able to assess the financial, social and unemployment implications of the unrest. It has decimated the rural and agricultural sectors of KZN and will take quite some time before the impact can be truly quantified.”

Several agricultural industries have called for a 24-hour state of emergency to diffuse the tension in KZN, and SA Cane Growers was also adding its voice.

“The damage already sustained will cripple the industry long after the unrest has been quelled, resulting in job losses in rural areas where unemployment is rife. Without immediate and drastic measures to restore the rule of law, the ongoing damage to critical infrastructure may soon become irreparable,” said Russel.

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