Sugarcane farmers in the Lowveld have blasted Tongaat Hullett’s decision to slash the price of sugarcane by 10% per tonne for the 2014-2015 harvest, saying the move would plunge them into poverty.
By Tatenda Chitagu
Tongaat used to buy a tonne of sugarcane at $577, but the price has dropped to $518, according to former Commercial Sugarcane Farmers’ Union in Zimbabwe (CSFUZ) secretary-general and ex-Zimbabwe Sugar Industry Milling Workers’ Union (ZISMIWU) chair Admore Hwarare.
Efforts to get a comment from Tongaat Hullett spokesperson Adelide Chikunguru-Musvovi proved futile as she did not respond to questions e-mailed to her early this week as per her request. Her mobile phone was also switched off the whole of yesterday.
However, Hwarare — a prominent sugarcane farmer — said he was surprised to hear of the price cut just a day before he got paid for his harvest.
“They (Tongaat) did not communicate to farmers as has been the case. I only knew of the price cut Thursday, a day before they paid me for last year’s harvest,” he said.
Hwarare said Tongaat unilaterally determined the price, which should be debated by farmers and if there is an impasse, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce should intervene.
“Normally, farmers would meet with Tongaat to deliberate on pricing. But they did not explain to us the reasons for that. If there are disagreements on pricing, then the Industry and Commerce ministry will intervene. But this time, I was surprised to see a reduced figure for the tonnage I supplied in my bank account,” he said.
He said most farmers would make losses and drown in debt as some had borrowed from the banks to fund their farming operations.
“Many farmers may fail to get money for planting the next season because they are repaying loans. The prices of inputs have increased and do not forget that we have to pay taxes. Zimra will pounce on us and we will be left with nothing,” he said.