CHIREDZI — AT LEAST 1 200 sugarcane growers in the Lowveld are demanding that Tongaat Hullet cedes an estimated 400 000 metric tonnes of sugar worth millions of dollars to them as compensation for alleged unilateral price cut that has left most of the new farmers in a quandary.
TATENDA CHITAGU, OWN CORRESPONDENT
The price cut allegedly led to the farmers’ payments being wiped by debt in the new pricing structure in a move that is likely to reduce production in the next season.
Sugarcane prices fell from a mill door price of $627,67 per tonne to $527,15 per tonne, meaning that farmers had their November payments deducted to cover for the past 10 months as they were deemed to have been overpaid.
Chairperson of the Commercial Sugarcane Farmers’ Association of Zimbabwe (CSFAZ) Admore Hwarare said the few farmers who were paid the reduced amount have refused to accept it and returned the money to Tongaat demanding their milled sugar.
The farmers have also requested to meet Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa over the matter.
“Tongaat should stop selling our sugar. The company should stop paying our farmers the unacceptable mill door price of $572,15 per tonne which we were not consulted on,” Hwarare said.
“They charge a 26% milling charge for every farmer and that mill charge must go. Since we paid them that amount, they have to give us our sugar. We want the company to cede our sugar to us because we have already paid them for their milling. We have the right to withdraw our sugar if they decide the price without consulting us.
“We can do barter trade with other nations or sell it to our friends from the East. We have friends from the East, yet Tongaat sells our sugar to European Union member states that have imposed sanctions on us. Our sugar is very viable and is on demand on the world market.”
His sentiments were echoed by the other three cane farmers’ associations, the Hippo Valley Productive Sugarcane Farmers’ Association, Mkwasine Sugarcane Farmers’ Trust and the Zimbabwe Sugarcane Development Association.
Although Tongat Hullet chairperson Sydney Mutsambiwa could not be reached for comment, sources in the company attributed the price fall to an influx of cheap sugar imports, mainly from Brazil, that has hurt the price.
“There has been an influx of cheap sugar imports from Brazil and this has pushed sugar prices down,” said a Tongaat official.
However, Davison Nago, the vice-chairperson of the Zimbabwe Sugarcane Development Association said the government has to cushion the farmers from the cheap imports.
“We are in the dark over the new pricing structure. We did not have a say on the new price yet we are the farmers. Inputs are going up, yet the prices are falling.
We were left with nothing after all the deductions on milling charges and we cannot pay cane cutters as well as those who provided transport to us because of the low pricing structure. If it is true that there are cheap sugar imports, then we urge government to protect the local industry instead of allowing an influx of cheap sugar imports from other countries which have seen a fall in the prices,” Nago said.