Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The South African Sugar Association (Sasa) has bowed to pressure to change its constitution to allow the representation of black cane farmers.

The pressure was applied by the Department of Trade and Industry, which threatened to amend the sugar industry agreement and the Sasa constitution to ensure greater representation of black cane farmers if Sasa did not change its constitution.

Parliament’s trade and industry portfolio committee also urged the conflicting parties in the industry to reach a compromise.

The association announced on Wednesday that it had unanimously adopted constitutional amendments, which will be implemented at the beginning of the new season on April 1 2018.

Sasa is a statutory body representing the country’s sugar industry and currently has two members — the South African Cane Growers’ Association and the South African Sugar Millers’ Association.

The new changes to the constitution will see the reconfiguration of these two members to ensure they are more inclusive and representative.

The two members of Sasa will in future be the Cane Farmers’ Federation (CFF) and the Sugar Milling & Refining Federation (SMRF).

The Cane Farmers’ Federation will be made up of South African Cane Growers’ Association, the South African Farmers Development Association (Safda) and others.

Cane Farmers’ Federation representation will be determined on the basis of cane delivery and membership.

The Sugar Milling & Refining Federation will be based on proportional representation on the basis of members and production.

Both federations will have 16 councillors on the Sasa council.

This arrangement will ensure that Safda — which represents black cane growers who have benefited from land reform — will share in the levies collected by Sasa from its members.

The Sasa council also approved the payment of retrospective levies to Safda and any other Safda costs for the period November 25 2015 to March 31 2018.

Sasa’s council will have an independent chairperson, and there will be a Department of Trade and Industry observer at all council meetings.

In the meantime, the interim measures include the granting of three Safda members an observer status with a voice on the Sasa council with immediate effect.

Department of Trade and Industry director-general Lionel October told MPs during a recent briefing of the portfolio committee that the South African Cane Growers’ Association could not be the sole representative of cane growers as this would mean that it received 100% of the levies imposed on cane growers by statute.

He emphasised that it was unacceptable to allow the status quo to continue as it recognised only one association representing mainly white cane growers which had a monopoly over the industry.

"We are very determined that if we don’t get the co-operation from the players to amend their own constitution we will impose a solution," October emphasised.

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