From George Maponga in Masvingo
Government has been urged to immediately work towards breaking Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe’s monopoly in the country’s sugar industry to engender more benefits to thousands of indigenous cane outgrowers who benefited under the land reform programme.
Chiredzi West National Assembly member Cde Farai Msikavanhu yesterday said it was unsustainable in the medium-to-long term for the Lowveld sugar producer to maintain its vice-grip-like stranglehold on the country’s sugar industry.
The multi-million-dollar industry is currently controlled by Tongaat, which has interests in the entire value chain from cane production, processing and marketing.
This development has made it difficult for indigenous outgrower farmers to fully benefit from their crop, with Tongaat’s footprints appearing on every stage of the sugar value chain.
Cde Msikavanhu said there was need to repeal archaic laws such as the 1964 Sugar Production and Control, Act, which placed the entire country’s sugar industry under the purview of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Enterprise Development.
“One thing for sure is that we cannot continue with the monopoly currently enjoyed by Tongaat Hulett in the country’s sugar industry. Such a situation is not sustainable at all, where the company is involved at every stage from cane production, processing and marketing.
“We need to do something under the new dispensation to make sure that outgrower farmers and the national economy as whole accrue full benefits from the industry.”
“At the moment, sugarcane is the only strategic crop whose whole production value chain resides in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce because of moribund laws such as the 1964 Sugar Production and Control Act,” said Cde Msikavanhu.
The Chiredzi West legislator — in whose constituency Tongaat runs sugar mills at Triangle and Hippo Valley Estates — said there was need to urgently heed President Mnangagwa’s clarion call for the country’s existing laws to be aligned with the Constitution.
“There is need for the field of sugarcane production to reside in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement so that outgrower farmers can get State support and even subsidies like what obtains with other strategic crops. Sugar processing and marketing should remain under the Ministry of Industry and we are looking into that issue as Parliament through the parliamentary portfolio committees on agriculture and industry,” he said.
Cde Msikavanhu said laws governing the sugar industry should be repealed to reflect the new realities in sugarcane production that were engendered by the Land Reform Programme.
There have been calls for Government to allow more players in the sugar industry, taking advantage of new avenues created by the advent of Tugwi-Mukosi Dam, which will irrigate vast swathes in the Lowveld.