By Penny Fourie.
The devastating floods have cost KwaZulu-Natal sugarcane farmers more than R200 million in damages,
This is according to SA Canegrowers who carried out a survey among cane growers in rural areas of KZN to determine the impact of the recent rains and flooding.
The preliminary results, which have been provided to the national government, reveal extensive damage not only to cane fields and farm infrastructure but also to access routes that allow growers to deliver their cane to mills.
More than 300 growers responded to the survey.
It was reported that 2516.65 hectares of cane suffered extensive crop and root damage, requiring the total replanting of these fields to bring them back into production.
This damage comes to an estimated R194.9 million.
Farm infrastructure to the value of R27.9 million has also been destroyed bringing the total losses to R222.9 million.
A number of local roads and bridges were also washed away, which are not only the main transport nodes to mills but also the access routes for farm inputs and workers employed on these farms.
SA Canegrowers CEO Thomas Funke said: “This catastrophic damage comes just as many cane growers had started recovering from the riots and arson attacks that took place in July last year, which saw 554 000 tons of cane being burnt and R84 million in losses.”
Funke said that this latest tragedy could be the final death knell for hundreds of cane growers and the rural livelihoods they support.
In particular, small-scale growers are most at risk of not recovering from losses of this magnitude.
“We welcome President Ramaphosa’s announcement that a national state of disaster has been declared in order to ensure the mobilisation of more resources, capabilities, and technical expertise to provide relief and rehabilitation to affected communities.”
“It is vital that these plans include assistance for the sugar industry, which provides more than one million livelihoods where they are desperately needed in rural communities,” said Funke.
He said they were committed to working closely with the government to ensure critical relief is provided to growers severely impacted by the recent catastrophic events.
“With our industry continuing to face a number of challenges including the influx of cheap imports and the health promotion levy, we need to do all we can to assist these growers to rebuild so they continue to support the workers and communities who depend on them.”
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