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MBABANE – Unfavourable climate conditions, industrial action and civil unrest caused a drop in cane and sugar production in Eswatini.

Sugar production went down from 684 562 tonnes the previous year to 613 894 tonnes in the year under review. Revenue also declined from E6.1 billion to E5.76 billion in the year under review due to a drop in sugar sales from 709 865 tonnes in 2021 to 636 066 in 2022. The Eswatini Sugar Association’s (ESA) 2021/22 Integrated Annual Report indicates that sugar cane depends mainly on natural resources, hence climate change and extreme weather conditions continued to be one of the highest risk factors. ESA is the regulatory and single marketing body for the sugar industry in Eswatini, which was established by the Sugar Act of 1967.


It is involved in the purchasing and selling of sugar and molasses in Eswatini and beyond the borders. “During the year under review a number of matters materially affected ESA’s capability to create maximum value. These are not confined to a specific period, but have overlapped from previous years and their effects may carry over into the medium to long term,” states the report. The report states that the year (2021/22) started on a positive note with all water storage dams at full capacity as a result of Cyclone Eloise and substantial rains.


It further revealed that prolonged cloud cover from the persistent rain in October 2021 reduced solar radiation and lowered temperatures as compared to the previous three seasons.
“Radiation and temperatures are the two most important climate factors that determine sugar cane yield. Low radiation and temperatures curtail cane growth while high levels promote growth,” the report reads in part. “In addition, the crop was waterlogged for a prolonged time, adversely affecting crop growth due to reduced oxygen levels and nutrient uptake by the roots.” To reduce the risk of climate change, the industry has undertaken to adopt climate-smart practices such as efficient water use, rainwater harvesting and increased water storage facilities. The report also states that the civil unrest saw the burning of some growers’ sugar cane fields, thus reducing cane production. It further laments that the prolonged industrial action, which halted operations in one of the local mills, contributed to the reduction in sugar production.


ESA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Banele Nyamane added that the production costs had escalated in the past years. He said the main cost drivers were electricity for irrigation, fertilisers and other agrochemicals for the crop upkeep, as well as the costs of harvesting, loading and transporting the cane to the mill. He said this decreases production by six per cent.
The CEO added that the markets were wide but production decreased and it was imperative to address the weather pattern issues.

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