PRESS RELEASE: International NGO calls on South Africa’s New Leadership to Support Sugar Industry Diversification
Published: 04/25/2018, 12:56:35 PM
The introduction of a tax on sugary beverages in South Africa on 1 April has focused attention on the effect it will have on southern Africa’s sugar industry. The job losses that will come from the impacts of the sugar tax highlight the fact that sugar cane as an agricultural commodity has enormous potential outside its use in food and drink. The industry’s potential to contribute to the economy and job creation is significant.
But in South Africa instead of expanding and reaching its full potential, the industry is shrinking and is at great risk primarily because of two factors: the global oversupply of sugar from the more than 100 sugar-producing countries, and the slow uptake of national policies that would enable the sugar industry to diversify, creating new markets for sugar cane by-products.
South Africa has all the attributes necessary to facilitate the growth and expansion of a world-class sugar and bio-refining industry. This should be part of an industrial strategy to enhance manufacturing capacity and create jobs by processing natural resources.
Studies by major universities and research institutes confirm that diversification into biofuels and other areas is economically viable in SA, and as many as 125,000 jobs could be created through ethanol production alone.
The FairPlay Movement, a not-for-profit initiative with the goal to end predatory trade practices that threaten the livelihoods of workers has taken up the challenges facing this vital industry that accounts for nearly 20 percent of agricultural employment in South Africa.
FairPlay is lead by Francois Baird of South Africa and includes partners from South Africa, the USA, Canada, UK, Ghana and Ireland.
According to Baird, founder of the FairPlay movement, the South African sugar industry is under threat. A vital, strategic and labour-intensive South African industry that should be expanding and creating more jobs is instead shrinking and putting people out of work. South Africa and its Southern African Development Community (SADC) neighbours have the land, climate, skills, human resources and scientific expertise to be the world leader in diversification. Diversification is key to the sugar industry’s future in South Africa.
In South Africa and neighbouring countries the sugar industry is vital, strategic and labour intensive. It is a major contributor to the national economies of the region and a major employer. Through diversification it has the potential to vastly expand its agricultural footprint, significantly increase its economic impact and create thousands of new jobs.
FairPlay maintains that two things are needed to ensure the industry’s future within the region: support and protection against the global over-supply of sugar and a national policy framework that supports and incentivises diversification, expansion and job creation.