SA Canegrowers has confirmed reports that some small-scale growers supplying the Tongaat Hulett mills at Felixton, Amatikulu and Maidstone have received the overdue payment for cane delivered in September 2022. We welcome this development, given the particular financial vulnerability of small-scale grower operations, and are grateful that the business rescue practitioners have understood the urgency of prioritising grower payments to prevent the permanent collapse of their businesses.

However, commercial growers have not yet been paid, leaving the majority of the imperilled 14,642 jobs at risk. Approximately 300 commercial growers supplied more than half of the cane delivered to Tongaat Hulett in September and they employ the vast majority of the area’s cane farm workers. It therefore remains critical that the business rescue practitioners prioritise the payment to these growers, which will enable payments to other value chain participants including contractors, haulier companies and input suppliers.

There also remain questions about Tongaat Hulett’s ability to make timeous payments of more than R345 million at the end of November for the more than 570,000 tons of cane delivered in October. If this is not addressed now, the industry may find itself in this same crisis in a few weeks’ time.

This is why SA Canegrowers will continue to engage with the business rescue practitioners, government, and other industry stakeholders to ensure that we prevent a similar crisis. It is also critical that clarity is provided on plans for the remainder of the season, and to try to secure the future of Tongaat Hulett for the sake of the thousands of livelihoods dependent on cane growing in the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal,

Source:  SA Canegrowers