Foreign sugar leaves bad taste in local farmers' mouths

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File: The sugary drinks tax or health promotion levy is expected to prevent a wide-range of obesity-related non-communicable diseases.

PRETORIA - Government assured thousands of sugarcane farmers that their ailing sector will be protected.

Farmers descended on Pretoria in a massive protest led by the South African Sugar Association (SASA) and the SA Farmers Development Association (Safda). 

With more sugar coming in from Brazil, Thailand and even the UAE, these farmers are growing desperate and are calling on the government to step in.

The farmers requested the government to impose higher tariffs on sugar imports in a bid to save and protect the local farmers.

SASA chairman Suresh Naidoo said the local sugar industry was currently “under siege” and made a direct contribution of more than R15-billion to the economy.

READ: Sugar industry set to protest over imports

“Should this import trend continue, as it is now, three mills will have to close down, and the results will be catastrophic – jobs, economic activity, and livelihoods will be dismantled," he said.

"In the 2017/18 season, the duty paid on imports of more than 500,000 tonnes [of sugar] translated to the local industry losing more than R2,3-billion in revenue.”

Department of trade and industry (dti) director-general Lionel October addressed the thousands of protesters.

October said dti Minister Rob Davies, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel and Minister of Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana were already discussing the matter.

“As government we are disturbed by the plight of the industry plus the suffering that is taking place. We know that that there has been big imports of sugar from Brazil, India, and the UAE.

"Lots of sugar have come into the country, and this industry is bleeding. We know and understand that,” he said.

- Additional reporting eNCA