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SA’S SUGAR HARMONISING PLAN WITH ESWATINI

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MBABANE – It seems there is no reason to be worried despite claims that South Africa is faced with a shrinking sugar market because of cheaper supplies from Eswatini.

South Africa’s share of the Southern African Customs Union’s local market is said to have shrunk from 1.6 million tonnes to 1.2 million tonnes, the lowest levels since 1983. South Africa’s Chief Director of Agro-Processing at the Department of Trade and Industry, Ncumisa Mcata-Mhlauli, said the department developed a master plan to enable growth in the sugar industry, as the crisis in the industry threatened thousands of jobs.

South Africa’s Ministry of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel’s sectoral advisor Harald Harvey said seven steps in the stabilisation strategy - the Sugar Master Plan - sought to make room in the market for the consumption of locally produced sugar while harmonising with other producers in the region like in Eswatini. “The first step of our stabilisation is restoring local demand and addressing cheap imports. Within the first year, we hope to get 80 per cent of all of the country’s sugar requirements sourced locally with a view of working it up to 95 per cent in three years,” said Harvey. According to Fin24, Harvey said 80 per cent of sugar farmers in the local sugar industry were small scale and needed to be kept active and set up for a sustainable future.

Diversify

He said transformation of the sector and assisting small scale farmers to diversify into functions such as biofuels and plastics were also a priority. When he tabled his budget vote last week, Patel said the Covid-19 pandemic made the Department of Trade and Industry’s transformation policies even more urgent, as smaller and newer businesses needed to be positioned to benefit from South Africa’s economic recovery after the pandemic.

Export

Eswatini is a major sugar producer on the continent. Sugar is the country’s main export commodity, and Eswatini is the fourth largest sugar producer in Africa and the 25th largest producer in the world. Sugar production accounts for over half of Eswatini’s agricultural output and contributes immensely to the country’s gross domestic product. Worth mentioning is that the positive trade balance amounting to E3.9 billion in 2019, is explained by a 16.2 per cent rise in export receipts, largely dominated by the country’s export of soft drink concentrates, followed by sugar exports. On average, 67 per cent of the country’s exports are destined to the South African market.

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