Sugar is a key agricultural industry for South Africa, with sugarcane being the second largest South African field crop by gross value, surpassed only by maize. The industry generates R14 billion in revenues, with sugarcane farming contributing around 64% of this figure, employing up to 85 000 people across the growing and milling subsectors, and providing indirect employment to possibly up to 350 000 workers within the value chain. The industry contributes around 10% to 11% of the country’s total agricultural employment of about 850 000 and may, through the families of those directly and indirectly employed, impact the livelihoods of close to one million people or close to 2% of the South African population.
The industry, however, remains mainly a single income stream industry, reliant almost entirely on sugar sales for revenue. Yet globally, the sugar industry is experiencing a drive for commercial sustainability focused on the diversification of income streams, with sugar industries expanding their focus to include the production of renewable energy and biochemicals. This report move looks at options for South Africa.