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NDZEVANE – A tonne of sugar cane now costs E4 500, and the price is revised six times annually.

A tonne was worth around E3 500 last year in March, and the prices were reviewed six times to date, increasing by almost E1 000, excluding tax. The sugar cane market is one of the most lucrative in Eswatini; the demand is higher than the supply. Currently, the country is failing to meet both export and inland market demands for sugar cane. The industry is embattled by the continuous escalating cost of farming inputs, which has affected the quality and quantity of the cane in the previous financial year. The industry was now facing a challenge; sugar production decreased by 5.7 per cent in the current reporting period. Sugar production was forecast at 613 139 Metric tonnes (MT) in 2021/22, down from an actual production of 684 563MT in 2020/21 (a decrease of 10.4 per cent).


The decline was attributed to the drop in cane production and quality, which decreased by 5.5 per cent as production for 2021/22 was forecast at 5 444 050MT, down from an actual production of 5 759 016MT in 2020/21. There was also a decrease in the quantity of the cane crushed from local farms as it decreased to 5 759 016MT, from 6 001 618MT forecasted in 2020, which projects a four per cent decrease. This further nullified the sales of sugar, which dropped by 9.9 per cent, they forecast 639 874MT in 2021/22 from 709 835MT in 2020/21.
The challenges in the industry further affected the rate of exports, which heavily declined by 21 per cent to 210 904MT against 267 139MT in 2020/21.


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 have procured a solar grid to minimise the cost of electricity, but a majority cannot afford the latter.


“About 15 farmers have joined hands to procure a solar grid, which was funded by their own income, we request a subsidy from the 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 the government reduces the cost of electricity for businesses that consume a lot of units.

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