Growing the farming community

Small-scale growers key to sustainability of South Africa’s rural economies


With more than 125-years as one of the biggest sugar producers in the country, Illovo Sugar South Africa remains convinced that small-scale sugar cane growers not only play a major role in the industry; but are also the lifeblood of many rural communities.

It is in that light we have been at the forefront of supporting emerging growers everywhere we have presence. With more than 3 000 small scale farmers on our books (the latest statistics indicate there are 20 000 small scale sugar cane growers in the industry) supplying us with sugar cane, we are acutely aware of the importance of small-scale growers not only in contributing to our company’s success, but also helping support the growth of the rural economies we operate in.

As a major supplier of sugar to the consumer and industrial markets which produce syrup and speciality sugars, we need the support of sugar cane growers to ensure we meet the demand for our products so that we remain South Africa’s leading sugar producer.

Our flagship Sezela Mill complex on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal produces furfural and its derivatives while high-quality ethyl alcohol, from which various grades of alcohol are made, is produced at our Merebank plant on the south of Durban. Our Merebank plant also manufactures lactulose.

As we value the contribution of small- and medium-scale growers, Illovo has continued to work with this stakeholder group to promote sustainable agriculture and economic development activities.

We develop these programmes as we believe that the success of small-scale growers is our success and key for the transformation of South Africa’s multi-billion sugar sector. Illovo Sugar further provides extensive technical, financial and capacity-building support to small-scale sugarcane growers with the purpose being enabling the productivity and sustainability of these growers and land reform growers.

Our company has also entered into a partnership with the National Treasury’s Jobs Fund initiative to provide capital for a project to develop 3 000 hectares of uncultivated small-scale grower cane land on the South Coast of KZN, bringing much-needed economic activity to many villages and towns in the region. All in all, the three-year project brings in some R70-million annually into these rural economies.

Through the project, communal land is being developed into sugar cane farms owned and operated by the community. This three-year project, which commenced in 2017, has helped generate employment opportunities for communities in farming as well as secondary activities associated with crop husbandry, crop removal and logistics. This initiative reaches approximately 2 000 small growers.

According to the World Bank’s South Africa Poverty and Inequality Assessment Report 2018, KwaZulu-Natal accounts for the biggest numbers of the poor in South Africa, mainly because of its share of the population size. To overcome this, Illovo has paid special attention to transforming rural economies through supporting land transformation and ownership of land by black people.

Our own land reform programme has seen us sell 28 000 hectares of land to black farmers. To date, our own land redistribution initiative – comprising 55% of our original land portfolio – has facilitated the establishment of more than 50 black mid-scale or large-scale commercial farming enterprises.

Who Is Illovo Sugar South Africa?

Illovo Sugar South Africa is a proudly South African business with a deep heritage in the rural KwaZulu-Natal having established operations for over 125 years. It is a diversified agri-processing business with the core being sugar production for local market sales. The company has, over the years, invested heavily into process innovation to beneficiate by-products of sugar cane production. We convert molasses to generate alcohol and successfully developed groundbreaking technologies for processing bagasse and select plant material to extract furfural for industrial uses.

Our commercial activities span the global market place with sugar and alcohol-focused on the local South African market. Sugar exports are done through the Sugar Associations’ central desk. Furfural alcohol is mainly an export product competing with significantly larger operators out of Asia.

Illovo Sugar South Africa is a level 1 BEE company, a proud accolade, and a demonstration of the commitment the business has to transformation in line with country objectives. The business has been on the journey commencing with the establishment of black commercial growers and a black industrialist in sugar milling. We have, and will continue to, invest in skills and enterprise development as well as employment equity, diversifying the representation of our workforce.

As a rural-based business, our operations are a critical component of the rural economy, from the people that are employed and suppliers associated with the activities directly and indirectly generated by our presence. We have thus invested in the sustainable development of growers in these rural economies from black small-scale to land-reform growers, which has resulted in significant improvements in financial inflows into these communities. Our aspiration remains to grow these initiatives in partnership with relevant government programs to further support economic growth in these rural communities in which we operate.

Illovo Sugar South Africa

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Issue 46


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