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South African Cane Growers Issue Urgent Plea: President Ramaphosa, It’s Time to Honor the ‘Buy Local’ Pledge for Our Sugar Industry

In the lush fields of South Africa, a battle is brewing to safeguard the legacy of the nation’s sugar industry. The South African Canegrowers Association (SA Canegrowers) has turned to President Cyril Ramaphosa, reminding him of a vital promise made during his 2021 State of the Nation Address. This pledge, if fulfilled, could breathe new life into the local sugar sector and preserve a rich heritage.

Roots of SA Canegrowers: A Century-Old Legacy

For nearly a century, SA Canegrowers has been the voice of cane growers, advocating for their rights and interests. Founded in 1927, the association has tirelessly tackled issues ranging from legislative concerns to securing fair prices for cane, conducting crucial research, and educating both farmers and the public on the intricate world of cane farming and the sugar industry.

The ‘Home Sweet Home’ Campaign: A Beacon of Hope

Central to this ongoing battle is the ‘Home Sweet Home’ campaign, born from the Sugarcane Value Chain Masterplan inked by Ministers Ebrahim Patel and Thoko Didiza in December 2020. This noble campaign aims to raise awareness about the perils confronting the local sugar industry and inspire consumers to rally behind locally-produced sugar.

Since its digital launch in June 2023, ‘Home Sweet Home’ has resonated with over 2 million South Africans, with thousands pledging their support. However, one crucial figure has yet to stand alongside the cause.

An Urgent Plea to President Ramaphosa

In a heartfelt letter addressed to President Ramaphosa, Andrew Russell, Chairman of SA Canegrowers, implores him to sign the ‘Home Sweet Home’ pledge. This call to action coincided with Heritage Day on September 24, a day that symbolizes unity and shared values.

Andrew Russell expresses deep concern that the President’s pledge to promote the purchase of local sugar remains unfulfilled. This lack of commitment has slowed the implementation of critical measures outlined in the Masterplan, particularly among government departments and State-Owned Enterprises.

He notes, “There has been no indication, for example, that the government fulfilled its commitment to ensure that government departments and state-owned enterprises procure locally produced sugar.”

The Fate of an Industry Hangs in the Balance

Andrew Russell’s plea is not just a call for political action; it’s a cry for the preservation of a historic industry that dates back to the mid-1800s. The South African sugar sector is not just about sugar; it’s about millions of livelihoods, countless jobs, and a rich cultural heritage.

The milling crisis, the burden of the Health Promotion Levy, and recurrent flooding have battered the industry. Without decisive government support, this heritage faces an uncertain future.

A Race Against Time

The clock is ticking, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. SA Canegrowers, the custodians of South Africa’s sugar legacy, look to President Ramaphosa to make good on his promise—a promise that holds the key to the survival of an industry that has woven itself into the nation’s fabric.

The question now lingers: Will the sugar fields that have stood the test of time continue to flourish, or will they fade into history? The answer lies in the hands of leadership, the promise of ‘Home Sweet Home,’ and the enduring spirit of South Africa.

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