DA to request Parliament to urgently debate impending sugar cane industry jobs crisis

Issued by John Steenhuisen MP – Chief Whip of the Democratic Alliance
25 Feb 2019 in News

Note to Editors: The statement follows a meeting with sugar cane farmers in KwaZulu-Natal. Please find attached a soundbite by the Democratic Alliance Chief Whip, John Steenhuisen MP. Pictures can be downloaded here, here and here.

Today, the Democratic Alliance Chief Whip, John Steenhuisen MP and DA Shadow Minister for Trade & Industry, Dean Macpherson MP, met with small scale farmers and sugar cane stakeholders to hear fist hand how a number of government actions and inactions have brought the sugar cane industry to its knees, putting 350 000 workers at the risk of losing their jobs.

At the very heart of this crisis is the ANC’s unwillingness to listen to the sugar industry experts.

When the sugar tax was first mooted, industry experts warned that this would lead to job losses. So far, 1000 jobs have already been lost in the sector and this figure is steadily climbing.

This tax, combined with 500 000 tons of sugar illegally dumped in the country in 2018; the R220 million missing drought relief funding; and, inadequate tariff protections of $680 per ton rate versus the $856 per ton which the industry applied for, have combined to create the perfect storm for a jobs blood bath in the industry.

For this reason, on 11 February 2019, the DA wrote to the Chairperson of the Trade & Industry Portfolio Committee imploring her to hold an urgent joint meeting with the Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development in the hope of finding a solution to stem further jobs loses.

The Chairperson has responded through a Parliamentary statement, noting that this matter “can wait until after the elections”.

The fact of the matter is that 350 000 people do not have the luxury of waiting for another two months, until after the 8th of May. By then, we may not have a sugar industry to speak of.

As such, the DA has again today submitted a motion to the Speaker, requesting an urgent debate of national importance on this matter. It is critical that the Speaker of the National Assembly grants this request so that Parliament is able to find solutions urgently, to avoid a jobs blood bath in the sugar sector.

To turn this ship around Parliament must immediately place a moratorium on the sugar tax; must ensure adequate tariif and industry protections; and, must ensure that illegal imports are curtailed.

Legal imports must be also regulated, and the dollar based reference price must be corrected urgently, to ensure adequate industry protections for South African sugar farmers.

On-going inaction by the ANC in the face of the impending crisis is typical of a party that masquerades as a movement for the poor when it is clear that they do not care about the plight of the poor at all!

The DA will continue to fight for the ANC to do their jobs, to get off their hands and protect the very people that will be going to the polls in 10 weeks time.