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MBABANE – The future of the local sugar industry is positive amid some challenges.

In its 2021/22 Integrated Annual Report, the Eswatini Sugar Association (ESA) has expressed determination and optimism that it would continue to bring value to the sugar cane growers, millers and consumers despite the prevailing uncertainties. Eswatini Sugar Cane Growers Association Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Sipho Nkambule said cane growers farming input to the economy was about E1.5 billion in the financial year ended March 2022. He said small scale cane growers contributed about E900 million to the economy of the country. He added that the high cost of electricity was a contributing factor to the performance of the industry and urged for government assistance. Nkambule said some farmers had procured a solar grid to minimise the cost of electricity, but a majority cannot afford these. “About 15 farmers have joined hands to procure a solar grid which was funded by their own income, we request a subsidy from government to limit the costs,” he added.


The CEO also mentioned that weather patterns were a disadvantage to the use of solar as they were not able to produce enough electricity for the farms. He further requested that government should reduce the cost of electricity to businesses that consume a lot of units. He said the amount crane growers spent on operational expenses was constantly on the rise. Nkambule also mentioned that farming inputs were not the only challenge faced by small scale famers, he said access to funds was another challenge. He said banks were reluctant to finance small scale growers, citing the risk of funding unstable businesses. He requested that crane growers should procure dividends for them to increase funding towards their businesses.

Standard Bank of Eswatini Chief Executive Mvuselelo Fakudze said lending money to businesses was one of the difficult tasks faced by banks. He said giving a guarantee that the money would be returned back to the owners was the factor that made it difficult for banks to give such loans. “In most cases, we then have to search and run after people who then fail to pay back the loans and most of them always shun away,” he said. Fakudze said the role of the banks was to safeguard their money and re-invest it to the market for it to grow.


He said if businesses want less interest charged on their account, they should mind their account conduct to increase faith with banks. He said the sugar industry works has a good relationship with local banks, thus farmers should focus more on performance. ESA Chairman Tom Dlamini also re-affirmed that the industry’s future was positive in spite of the myriad challenges. He made reference to the fact that the industry was not spared from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Dlamini also noted that the civil unrest resulted in loss of sugar cane, human life and property. “The sugar industry was not spared as over 1 100 hectares were burnt prematurely, leading to cumulative losses across the sugar cane supply chain,” he said in the association’s annual report.

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