George Maponga, Masvingo Bureau
The Zimbabwe Sugar Sales (ZSS) board has agreed to sell sugar to small traders on credit, in a development that is expected to significantly empower small businesses, while increasing penetration of the commodity in the local market.
Only a few big wholesalers and selected firms are getting the commodity on credit of up to 30 days, a situation that excluded small traders who had to pay cash to get sugar.
In a landmark development, ZSS, which is responsible for marketing and selling sugar produced by both Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe and outgrowers inside and outside the country, has agreed to start processing applications from small businesses seeking licences to purchase sugar on credit.
ZSS board member Mr Admore Hwarare said the development would enhance sugar sales and nip shortages on the local market.
‘’Special praise to ZSS board chair Mr Aiden Mhere (Tongaat acting chief executive) for agreeing to extend sugar sales to small traders initially on a seven-day credit facility that can eventually be extended up to a month like what happens with big wholesalers,” he said.
‘’This development will no doubt empower indigenous small business people while at the same time increasing sugar penetration on the market. This will eventually end shortages of sugar on the local market and is a very positive development which must be applauded.’’
Mr Hwarare suggested that ZSS should consider supplying sugar on credit to People’s Shops, opened by Government in various parts of the country to make sure the commodity was easily accessible on the market.
The ZSS board member expressed satisfaction with ground covered in making sure out-grower cane farmers receive part of their payment for the 2017/18 season in hard currency.
He said one of the challenges delaying farmers to receive their hard currency dues was that most of them were still to open foreign currency accounts.
‘’We are on the right track with regards to paying our farmers in hard currency and we are appealing to them to open FCAs so that by the end of this month they start receiving payment with effect from October last year well into the future.’’
Mr Hwarare also praised Mr Mhere for his flexibility to understand that cane farmers were being short-changed by being denied payment in foreign currency for their exported sugar.
‘’Indigenous out-grower farmers were being milked for many years as they were not receiving foreign currency for sugar exports and I am happy that we managed to change that and a new era beckons for cane farmers,’’ he said.
Plans were also afoot to further cushion cane farmers by striking a lasting agreement on a revised “division of proceeds” ratio to replace the current 27 percent which Mr Hwarare said was too high.
‘’We are still worried why the Ministry of Industry and Commerce has not yet released a new DOP figures create a win-win scenario between the miller (Tongaat) and out-growers,” he said.
“We need closure to this issue and we are happy that Vice-President Kembo Mohadi is spearheading negotiations on the issue.’’
There have been incessant calls for Government to keep a close eye on developments in the sugar industry to ensure out-growers who benefited from the land reform programme were not blocked from flourishing through a plethora of challenges particularly skewed legislation which governs operations of the industry.
Commercial Sugar Cane Farmers Association of Zimbabwe secretary General Mr Ralph Sakupwanya has been on record calling on Government to amend the Sugar Production Control Act to reflect the new configuration in sugar cane production in the country as the existing Act does not recognise the presence of out-grower cane farmers.