KZN cane growers say floods have cost them a quarter of a billion rand – so far

Business Insider SA
The sugar industry has lost a quarter of a billion to floods and heavy rains so far. (Image: Getty)
The sugar industry has lost a quarter of a billion to floods and heavy rains so far. (Image: Getty)
  • The sugar industry has already lost R223 million due to cane damage in KwaZulu-Natal following excessive rain and flooding.
  • Cane fields, farm infrastructure, and some access routes to mills and sugar farms have also suffered damage.
  • The floods come as a blow to the industry, which last July lost over R84 million after arson damage to more than 550,000 tons of cane during the unrest.
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The South African sugar industry has lost more than R223 million so far after heavy rains and floods caused damage to thousands of hectares of cane crops, the South African Canegrowers Association has said.

More than 300 cane growers in the region participated in a survey by the Canegrower’s Association and reported damage to crops on 2,516.65 hectares of cane fields which now need to be replanted. Sugarcane crops on these fields suffered severe crop and root damage due to the flooding that has wreaked havoc in KwaZulu-Natal. Losses incurred from damage to the crops alone currently stand at R194.9 million.

The excessive rains over the past weeks not only hurt sugarcane crops it also destroyed farming infrastructure to the tune of R27.9 million. The association said that access routes to cane mills and farms have also been affected.  

The flood damage comes just eight months after rioting and looting last year rocked KZN, one of South Africa’s key sugar-producing provinces, where 554,000 tons of cane, worth R84 million, was damaged in arson attacks. 

The flooding and rain damage is a further blow to the industry, which is still recovering from years of severe droughts, cheap imports, and the sugar tax.“It is clear that this latest tragedy could be the final death knell for hundreds of cane growers and the rural livelihoods they support. In particular, small-scale growers are most at risk of not recovering from losses of this magnitude,” The South African Canegrowers’ Association said.

At the behest of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, the association has compiled a report based on the survey’s findings, which it handed over to national government this week.

The association has requested that government include it in its disaster management plans for KZN and that it offers financial and infrastructure relief to affected cane growers, to ensure that they replant their cane fields and generate cash flow as they rebuild.

“SA Canegrowers remains committed to working closely with government to ensure critical relief is provided to growers severely impacted by the recent catastrophic events,” the association said.

“With our industry continuing to face a number of challenges including the influx of cheap imports and the health promotion levy, we need to do all we can to assist these growers to rebuild so they continue to support the workers and communities who depend on them,” it said. 

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