SMALL scale sugarcane farmers in South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province have upped revenue by 42.6% despite one of the worst droughts on record.

ABOUT 800 small scale farmers in the Nkomazi region of South Africa’s Mpumalanga province have beaten the odds and increased revenue on their sugar cane operation by R95.6 million in the 2015/16 season.

In a recent statement, RCL Foods, who has a partnership agreement with the farmers said despite water restrictions, which limited irrigation to 10 hours a week and some of the dryest conditions on record, the operation had not only survived, but thrived.

Although average cane yields declined marginally, a 15% increase in total relative recoverable value (RRV) was realised and a 23.9% growth in the RV price resulted in the increased revenue.

When yields fell by 58 tons in 2012, RCL set up two joint venture services companies namely Akwandze Agricultural Finance and TSGRO to provide the latter with financial and agricultural and business support services.

Nkomazi is sandwiched between the northern border of Swaziland and the eastern border of Mozambique.

According to the statement, yields dropped in 2012 by as much as 58 tons per hectare. RCL Foods then took a decision to establish TSGRO Farming Service – an equally shared and controlled joint venture between RCL Foods and the Nkomazi rural farmers. “The partnership provides one-stop-shop support services and since May 2015 TSGRO has provided a bulk water supply service to support irrigation infrastructure for 6 000 hectares,” CEO of TSGRO, Roger Armitage said.

20% of RCL’s sugar cane is supplied by the 800 small-scale growers.

Further, since the start of the partnership TSGRO has attended to 1 450 repairs and upgraded irrigation systems in a bid to deliver the allocated water supply at the right pressure to the field.

According to Armitage, the bulk water supply had meant the farmers were able to pump their allocated irrigation water and it was this effective, stable irrigation service that resulted in the improved yields.

“TSGRO has also assisted the rural growers to facilitate production loans, access seed cane, fertiliser and herbicide to facilitate replanting and ratoon management during the drought recovery process. Fertiliser was supplied to 1 200 farmers,” he said.

Armitage said not only was the irrigation infrastructure in a better state than before the drought, but TSGRO had put in a lot of work to assist with hardware upgrades and the optimisation systems in specific grower projects.

“They have also established seed cane nurseries around Nkomazi to make quality seed available for replanting. More replanting than normal will be necessary because of the drought, and growers will be assisted in this by means of loans at reduced interest rates, through Akwandze Agricultural Finance. In partnership with the Jobs Fund, Akwandze has also been directly involved in strengthening the farming community’s resilience to drought through a five-year, R50 million project to rehabilitate irrigation infrastructure and enable better irrigation management going forward,” he said.



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