Sugar cane farmers in KwaZulu-Natal affected by the recent unrest, are calling on the government to also include them in the economic relief budget. Government has announced that support will be afforded to some business owners affected by the recent riots and looting.
The unrest began during the cane harvesting season, forcing sugar mills in KwaZulu-Natal to temporarily shut down as the delivery of sugarcane was disrupted. Small scale farmers who had already burnt their sugarcane fields in preparation for the harvest when the unrest began have been dealt a huge blow after their produce was rejected by the mills.
Farmer Zandile Mthembu says two trucks loaded with her sugarcane were rejected because it had apparently lost its value.
“We would like assistance with ratoon management and also if we can be assisted with the opening of uMzimkhulu mill because we can see that the capacity of Sezela Mill cannot capacitate the sugarcane from uMzimkhulu as well as Sezela area, so maybe they need to reopen the uMzimkhulu mill as well. Before riots, we had already harvested our sugar cane and we had about two loads on the loading zone that were ready to be taken to the mill and some on the field. After about 10 days they sent a circular to say they won’t take the cane that was burnt before the riots. This was unfortunate for us because we had to throw our sugar cane that was already burnt before riots,” says Mthembu.
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Meanwhile, the South African Farmers Development Association (SAFDA) is calling on government to work with partners within the industry to assist the affected farmers.
“This is taken as a natural disaster because you can’t blame the mill, the mill couldn’t mill the sugar and you can’t blame the farmers. They couldn’t bring the sugar cane to the mill so it was sort of like a natural disaster and we are asking the government to assist because we’ve seen the government is assisting other businesses with some grants. We’re asking the government to assist us as farmers as well to assist with grants so that we can mill again, small scale farmers that have lost, sometimes they bring one truck for the whole season. If now that one truck has been rejected that will mean now the whole season is gone for them. so that is why we are asking the government to assist us with some grants so that we can go back home and do the ratoons,” says Mlungisi Mjwara, land reform farmer.
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