The South African sugar industry is one of the world’s leading cost competitive producers of high quality sugar and makes an important contribution to employment, particularly in rural areas, to sustainable development and to the national economy.
It is a diverse industry combining the agricultural activities of sugarcane cultivation with the manufacture of raw and refined sugar, syrups, specialised sugars and a range of by-products.
The canegrowing sector comprises approximately 22 500 registered sugarcane growers farming predominantly in KwaZulu-Natal, with a substantial investment in Mpumalanga and some farming operations in the Eastern Cape. Sugar is manufactured by six milling companies with 14 sugar mills operating in these canegrowing regions.
The industry produces an estimated average of 2.2 million tons of sugar per season. About 60% of this sugar is marketed in the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The remainder is exported to markets in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Sugar And The Economy
The South African sugar industry makes an important contribution to the national economy, given its agricultural and industrial investments, foreign exchange earnings, its high employment, and its linkages with major suppliers, support industries and customers.
Based on revenue generated through sugar sales in the SACU region as well as world market exports, the South African sugar industry generates an annual estimated average direct income of R8 billion. This constitutes R 5.1 billion in value of sugar cane production.
The sugar industry provides direct employment in cane production and processing, and indirect employment in numerous support industries in the three provinces where sugarcane is grown and processed, namely KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape.
Direct employment within the sugar industry is approximately 79 000 jobs, which represents a significant percentage of the total agricultural workforce in South Africa. Indirect employment is estimated at 350 000. In addition there are approximately 29 130 registered cane growers. Approximately one million people, more than 2% of South Africa’s population, depend on the sugar industry for a living.