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Failing sugarcane farmers contract Tongaat Hulett

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MORE than 100 outgrower farmers who were controversially allocated  sugarcane plots in Triangle and Hippo Valley in Chiredzi in 2016 have entered into a management contract with Tongaat Hulett after getting low yields due to poor farming methods.

MORRIS BISHI
The farmers, most of them Zanu PF activists linked to the late minister of State for Masvingo Shuvai Mahofa, were given a combined 4 000 hectares of standing sugarcane in a move which led to the retrencement of 2 000 employees by the sugar producer.

The programme, which resulted in Tongaat Hulett losing 14% of its 29 000-hectare farmland, saw the government taking 2 000 hectares in Triangle and other 2 000 hectares in Hippo Valley Estates.

Ailes Baloyi, leader of the Lowveld Sugarcane Growers’ Association (LSGA)  which represents the farmers, confirmed the development to The NewsHawks and said the move came after poor yields which were caused by inadequate farming knowledge as well as poor concentration.

He said although he is not among those who entered into the deal, more than 100 of them approached Tongaat Hulett and the parties struck a deal which was signed individually.

“Most of the farmers who were allocated sugarcane plots in 2016 have entered into a management contract with THZ (Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe). It’s true that most of the farmers were having challenges in managing their plots which led to poor yields. Those were individual agreements and l am not aware of the details contained in those agreements but the farmers were facing a lot of challenges. I am one of the few who are not part of the agreement since we are still able to manage our plots,” said Baloyi.

Tongaat Hulett communications and corporate affairs executive Adelaide Chikunguru refused to comment, saying it is a contractual matter between the sugar giant and individual farmers.

“The matter is contractual, therefore prohibitive for us to make comments on. Can you talk to the farmers since they are the ones who can give you details contained in the contract,” said Chikunguru.

A senior THZ employee told The NewsHawks that the development has exposed the government’s chaotic land reform programme which the authorities are claiming to be successful.

He said the contract with the farmers is a co-management agreement under which the sugar producer has already set aside 600 employees who are working on farmers’ fields. He also said farmers’ employees will be working under THZ so that they can learn how to manage sugarcane.

“The actual details of the deal are still secret to the public, but l can tell you that we have 600 company employees who are now working on those farmers’ plots. It exposes the land reform by government which took plots with standing cane from Tongaat Hulett, giving them to people who are now failing. Remember, in 2016 the company retrenched 2 000 employees for the benefit of only 133 people.
The same people are now unable to produce sugarcane, which is affecting sugar output in the industry. It is a co-management deal where the sugar producer is managing these plots including supplying inputs and at the end of the deal the farmers will take over,” said the senior employee.

A sugarcane expert based in the lowveld told The NewsHawks that sugarcane is a complicated crop which is different from the likes of maize.

The latest failure by indigenous people is not the first time this has happened, since outgrower farmers who were resettled in Mkwasine also struggled.

He said farmers should plough back into the fields by buying fertilisers and chemicals after selling sugarcane, but most farmers are concentrating on shopping sprees, resulting in poor harvests.

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