Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry today held a follow-up meeting with the sugar industry in an attempt to resolve the concerns of the industry. The Committee resolved to support the decision by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for a last effort for the parties to reach a negotiated settlement.

The Committee heard that a mediation process between the parties will re-start tomorrow (30 November) in an attempt to find a solution that would give membership recognition to the South African Farmers' Development Association (Safda). The Committee was informed by the DTI that the desired outcome of the mediation is that Safda and the South African Cane Growers' Association (Sacga) come out of the mediation as a unified organisation or alternatively an agreement on how the membership of the two to the South African Sugar Association (Sasa) can be split equally. This should not be based on tonnage produced or number of members.

The DTI further said should the Sacga go into the mediation in bad faith and inhibit an agreement being reached, Sacga will be removed as a member of Sasa and the full membership will be given to Safda. In this event, the DTI will request the Minister of Trade and Industry to amend the regulations governing the industry that would make provision for the recognition of Safda as an association and ultimately request Parliament to amend the Sugar Act of 1978. Currently, only Sacga and the South African Millers' Association (Sasma) are members of Sasa.

The Committee Chairperson, Ms Joanmariae Fubbs, called on all the parties to approach the mediation in good faith with the conclusion of an inclusive negotiated settlement. It is the Committee's intention to grow the economy in order to create jobs. The sugar sector is a critical industry. The Committee would therefore prefer to see a negotiated settlement that speaks to the transformation of the sector said Ms Fubbs.

The Committee further noted the Special Meeting that was called by Sasa on 12 December 2017 to discuss and vote on amendments to its Constitution to enable the implementation of the DTI's instructions, including the recognition of Safda. The Committee will reconvene early next year (2018) and a follow-up meeting on this matter will be put on the agenda.

In the event of this not taking place or that the DTI's instructions are not implemented, stronger action should be taken. This should include the amendment of legislation regarding membership of Sasa among other transformation issues and may require the disbandment of Sasa and/or Sacga.

Source: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa