Sugar is produced in 121 countries and global production now exceeds 120 million tons a year.
Approximately 70% of the global sugar production is derived from sugar cane. Apart from producing sugar for human consumption, sugarcane is also the most cost-effective feedstock for plant derived ethanol.
The South African sugar industry is one of the world’s leading cost competitive producers of high quality sugar and is the world’s 11th largest sugar producer.
According to independent surveys of the costs of production of more than 100 global sugar industries, the South African sugar industry consistently ranks amongst the top 15. Its excellent export infrastructure, world-renowned agricultural and industrial research platforms and efficient industry organisation are key drivers of excellence.
The local cane growing sector comprises of over 29000 registered producers farming mainly in KwaZulu Natal, with some investment in Mpumalanga and a few farms operating in the Eastern Cape. There are approximately 1 550 large-scale growers (inclusive of 378 emerging farmers) who produce 85% of total sugarcane production. Milling companies with their own sugar estates produce ± 7% of the crop. Local sugarcane yields are expected to improve slightly in future (subject to changes in the weather conditions) with BFAP stating that the average yield will duly increase from the 59 tons per hectare in 2011 to 65 tons per hectare in 2020.
An estimated average of 2.2 million ton of saleable sugar is produced each season. Of this, 60% is marketed in the SACU (Southern African Customs Union). The remainder is exported to Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Six milling companies with fourteen sugar mills operate in these cane growing areas. The industry makes an important contribution to local employment and generates an annual estimated average direct income of R8 billion. This constitutes R5.1 billion in the value of sugarcane production. Approximately 1 million people (2% of the country’s population), depend on sugarcane for a living.
Global resources, local offers
Globally, Syngenta has identified sugarcane as one of it’s focus crops and already invests heavily in the crop in Brazil, which accounts for over 50 percent of global sugar cane production. Prominent local Syngenta solutions in sugarcane include Falcon Gold for grass weed control, Lumax for broadleaf- and grass weed control, Fusilade Forte for sugarcane ripening and Gramoxone, a non-selective herbicide.
The South African Agricultural Baseline 2011 - Bureau for food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP)