Support for diversification of the sugar industry provides a superb and immediate opportunity for the government of South Africa under its new president to create thousands of new jobs by leveraging sugarcane as a key strategic economic resource. By CHRIS WARD.
Sugarcane is a magical plant with multiple potential uses that far outstrip its face-value use as a sweetener for food and drink. No other agricultural crop produced in South Africa has such potential to create a healthier, greener planet while creating employment, reducing dependence on petrol and lowering carbon dioxide emissions. And yet government is lagging behind in the initiatives that could help this crucial industry contribute to its full capacity.
South Africa once had a thriving sugar industry, but in the last 20 years, 58,000 hectares and around 11,000 mostly smaller independent producers have gone out of production. Diversification into new areas is now essential for the industry to survive and prosper.
The good news is that if these new avenues are exploited, particularly if government were to ratify a mandated blend of ethanol in petrol, the sugar industry can not only expand, it can create jobs and alleviate poverty.
There are nearly endless opportunities for products derived...