News / South Africa
A Canegrowers Association CEO Thomas Funke said the effects of unrest in KwaZulu-Natal on the cane industry would only be seen in the future, following huge fires in the KwaZulu-Natal plantations.
“The mills already faced challenges as they were further behind in processing cane due to closures during the unrest. The loss of revenue for growers could negatively impact their ability to keep workers employed, threatening vital rural jobs,” he said.
Funke said the total estimated tonnage that was burnt was 430 000 tons, which represented R258 million in grower revenue. He added the riots were more devastating than the pandemic, which the industry had survived relatively well.
“We had anticipated that we would emerge from the pandemic with most of our employees’ livelihoods intact. We will now need to review the expected outlook for the industry,” said Funke.
“Our focus was to work with government to restore law and order so that normal operations could resume, allowing the industry to mitigate as much damage as possible,” he said.
Most sugar mills in KZN resumed operations over the weekend and did not expect any impact on consumers in terms of either shortages or price increases.
Food systems researcher and policy analyst Brittany Kesselman said the high levels of concentration in South Africa’s food system made it vulnerable to disruption.
ALSO READ: Cane fields burnt in KwaZulu-Natal, sugar mills shut
“Unrest in one part of the country, especially an area that either produced or imported food, could disrupt access to food in other parts. This was true for interruption of transport routes, destruction of raw materials/finished products as well as manufacturing/processing plants.”
Kesselman said the large food retailers may or may not pass on the cost of damages to consumers in the form of higher prices.
“However, in the aftermath of looting, until supply chains were restored, the immediate shortages of goods may be filled by the looters themselves reselling what they took at inflated prices,” she said.
The looting led to the N3 highway connecting Johannesburg and Durban being closed. CEO of the Road Freight Association Gavin Kelly was elated about the route being opened.
“We could start transporting a lot of things down to KZN.”
Kelly said the N3 was guarded mostly by private guards more than the SA Police Service and national defence force. “It is important that our trucks are protected because they are targets.”