About 1 200 sugarcane growers in the Lowveld have demanded that Tongaat Hullet cede an estimated
400 000 metric tonnes of sugar worth millions of dollars to them over an alleged unilateral price cut.
The price cut has reportedly left most of the new farmers in a quandary after all their payments were wiped out by debt in the new pricing structure.
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.
Admore Hwarare, Commercial Sugarcane Farmers’ Association of Zimbabwe chairperson said few farmers who were paid the reduced amount had refused to accept it.
He said farmers returned the money to Tongaat demanding their milled sugar. Farmers have also requested to meet Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa.
“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 fee 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 countries 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 in the world market,” Hwarare said.
His sentiments were echoed by other three cane farmers’ associations, the Hippo Valley Productive Sugarcane Farmers’ Association, Mkwasine Sugarcane Farmers’ Trust and the Zimbabwe Sugarcane Development Association (ZSDA). 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,” a Tongaat official said.
However, Davison Nago, the ZSDA vice-chairperson, said the government has to cushion the farmers from the cheap imports. We are in the dark over the new pricing structure,” he said.
“We did not have a say on the new price, yet we are the farmers. Prices of 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.”