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USDA GAIN: Oilseeds, Cotton, Sugar, Grain and Feed

25 April 2013

USDA GAIN: South Africa Sugar Annual 2013USDA GAIN: South Africa Sugar Annual 2013

For the 2013/14 MY, post forecasts a five percent increase in sugar cane production to 18.1 MMT, due to improved climatic conditions. Sugar production is estimated at 2.2 MMTRV, almost eight percent more than the 2.0 MMTRV of the 2012/13 MY, and as a result sugar exports could increase by 25 percent to reach 500,000 MTRV. Post estimates that sugar exports in the 2012/13 MY could be around 400,000 MTRV, an increase of 47 percent from the 2011/12 MY’s sugar exports of 271,330 MTRV.
USDA GAIN Report - Oilseeds, Cotton, Sugar, Grain and Feed



For the 2013/14 MY, post forecasts a five percent increase in sugar cane production to 18.1 MMT. Most of the sugar producing areas received good rains during the early parts of 2013, which will contribute to an increase in sugar cane production. In addition, heavy rains during the end of 2012 hampered harvesting of some sugar cane fields and as a result those fields will be carried over to the 2013/14 MY for harvesting. However, an 18.1 MMT sugar cane crop is still much lower than the 23.0 MMT produced ten years ago . In addition to variable weather conditions in recent years, South African sugar cane growers have faced decreased profit margins, land reform, urbanization, high crime levels and infrastructure constraints. These factors have lead to a significant reduction in farmers’ investment towards improving production efficiencies. As a result, South Africa’s average sugar cane yields are currently relatively lower compared to other sugar cane producing countries. Almost half of sugar growers left the industry since the 2002/03 MY, as the returns of investment in sugar farming are relatively unattractive and the sugar cane area harvested decreased by about 15 percent. The number of large scale sugar cane producers declined by 20 percent the past ten years to about 1,400, while small scale sugar cane producers declined by 48 percent to about 25,000.

After enduring two of the worst drought-affected production seasons in the past 20 years, sugar cane production increased in the 2012/13 MY by three percent to 17.3 MMT. Better climatic growing conditions were the main reason for the increase in production. However, the sugar industry was unable to benefit fully from the better climatic conditions as a national transport strike in October 2012, and heavy rains at the end of 2012, hampered harvesting.

The 2011/12 season sugar cane crop was finalized at 16.8 MMT, only five percent higher than the previous season’s 16.0 MMT. Drought and secondary impacts of drought, such as cane root mortality and the forced harvest of young cane, were the major reasons for South Africa having one of the lowest sugar cane production seasons ever.

For the 2013/14 MY, sugar production is estimated at 2.1 MMT (2.2 MMTRV), almost eight percent more than in the 2012/13 MY, on the back of a higher expected sugar cane crop. The 1.8 MMT (1.9 MMTRV) sugar that was produced in the 2011/12 season was the lowest in the past 15 years in South Africa and illustrated the impact of the drought. Table 1 illustrates the production of sugar in South Africa for 2011/12 MY (actual), 2012/13 MY (estimate) and 2013/14 MY (forecast).

Table 1: The Production of Sugar in South Africa

*Tel Quell x 1.035 = Raw value, Refined x 1.07 = Raw value

The Structure of the Sugar Industry in South Africa

There are approximately 26,400 registered sugarcane growers in South Africa, covering the provinces of Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape. Of the 26,000 sugarcane growers, more than 25,000 are small-scale growers producing about ten percent of the total crop. Large-scale growers (approximately 1,400) produce approximately 83 percent of the total sugarcane crop, while milling companies, with their own sugar estates, produce approximately seven percent of the crop. The bulk of the sugar belt receives sufficient rainfall to grow cane without irrigation; however, parts of northern Kwazulu-Natal and Mpumalanga regions produces cane under irrigation (approximately 30 percent of total production). Cane growers are represented by the South African Cane Growers Association.

There are 14 sugar mills in South Africa. Four mills are each owned by Illovo Sugar Ltd and Tongaat Hulett Sugar Ltd. Three mills are owned by Tsb Sugar RSA Ltd, while Umfolozi Sugar Mill (Pty) Ltd, UCL Company Ltd and Gledhow Sugar Company (Pty) Ltd each own one mill. Only two mills are located in the Mpumalanga province, while the remainder is located in the Kwazulu-Natal province. The sugar millers are represented by the South African Sugar Millers’ Association Limited. Four of the mills are known as ''white end'' mills and produce their own refined sugar.

The South African sugar industry is regulated to facilitate the relationship between growers and millers and to protect the industry against international trade distorting measures. The South African Sugar Association (SASA) was set up by the Sugar Act (Act 9 of 1978), which mandates the Sugar Industry Agreement to regulate the affairs of the industry. SASA is an autonomous organization and operates free of government control. Due to the interdependence of millers and growers in the sugar industry, SASA has been structured on the basis of a partnership. The South African Cane Growers’ Association and the South African Sugar Millers’ Association Ltd are equal partners in the SASA and are represented by equal numbers of members on the Council of SASA, where decisions are reached on a consensus basis.

Alternative Uses for Sugar Cane

In August 2012, the South African government published regulations regarding the mandatory blending of bio-fuels with petrol and diesel. The regulations allow for five percent blending for biodiesel production, and set a permitted range of two percent up to ten percent for ethanol. The regulations did not mention the specific feedstock that can be used for bio-fuels. A strategic framework for bio-fuel production in South Africa will now be developed by the government. No implementation date for the mandatory blending was set by the published regulations, and will be determined at a later stage by the Minister of Energy.

The production of electricity from biomass in South Africa was only allocated a small capacity of 12.5MW and this excluded the use of bagasse for electricity production. Discussions have taken place between the Department of Energy and the sugar industry about evaluating the potential of the sugar industry to make a meaningful contribution to South Africa’s renewable energy program. It is the sugar industry’s view that the benefits from bagasse-based electricity will have a positive impact on the South African sugar industry and the South African economy.

Cane Prices

The South African sugar industry is a net exporter of sugar. In order to distribute export earnings equitably amongst growers and millers, SASA has implemented a Division of Proceeds. The Division of Proceeds is the formula where revenue that accrues to the sugar industry is allocated to millers and growers under a partnership arrangement. The Sugar Act and the Sugar Industry Agreement provide regulatory support for the Division of Proceeds.

Industry revenues earned from domestic and export sales of sugar and molasses are accounted for by SASA. After the deduction of administration costs, the net proceeds are shared between growers and millers at a predetermined percentage of net proceeds. Cane growers are thus paid for their sugar cane according to the quality of the cane delivered to the mill through this revenue sharing arrangement. Cane quality is measured by the Recoverable Value (RV) formula, which estimates the amount of sugar and molasses that can be produced from a delivery of cane. A provisional Recoverable Value (RV) price is declared monthly during the season which is applied to all cane delivered to date.

The final RV price for sugar cane delivered in the 2012/13 MY was set at R3,197 per ton and reflects relative high international prices and a weaker Rand/$US exchange rate.



For the 2013/14 season, sugar production is estimated at 2.1 MMT (2.2 MMTRV), almost eight percent more than the 2.0 MMT (2.0 MMTRV) produced in the 2012/13 MY, on a higher sugar cane crop. In the 2011/12 season, South Africa produced its lowest sugar crop the past 15 years at 1.8 MMT (1.9 MMTRV), due to a drought-affected production season.


The South African Customs Union (SACU) is the primary market for the South African sugar industry. The SACU market comprises South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland. Access to the market is regulated by the Southern African Development Community Sugar Cooperation Agreement. South Africa and Swaziland are the only sugar producing countries in SACU. The region’s sugar demand is estimated at approximately 2.2 MMT or 37kg per capita. Post estimates that the South African sugar industry supplied about 1.7 MMT (1.8 MMTRV), Swaziland about 310,000 tons (330,000 MTRV) and imports, mainly from Brazil, about 190,000 MT (200,000 MTRV) to the SACU market in the 2012/13 MY. South Africa’s sugar sales into the SACU market grew, on average, by approximately two percent per annum the past ten years and post believes this trend will continue into the 2013/14 MY (see also Figure 3). Hence, South Africa’s sugar sales into the SACU market is expected to reach almost 1.8 MMT (1.9 MMTRV) in the 2013/14 MY.

From South Africa’s SACU sales, approximately 45 percent is sold to industrial customers, with the balance sold directly to consumers at retail. Approximately 77 percent of sugar sold to customers is refined sugar and the balance is brown sugar.


In the 2013/14 MY, South Africa’s sugar exports could increase by 25 percent to reach 500,000 MTRV on increased sugar production. Post estimates that sugar exports in the 2012/13 MY could be around 400,000 MTRV, an increase of 47 percent from the 2011/12 MY’s sugar exports of 271,330 MTRV. Sugar exports decreased by 40 percent in 2011/12 MY, due to the lowest sugar crop the past 15 years in South Africa, as a result of drought. In the first 8 months of the 2012/13 MY (May 2012 to December 2012), South Africa already exported almost 280,000 MTRV of sugar. Post estimates South Africa will export 170,000 MTRV of raw sugar and 215,000 MT (230,000 MTRV) of refined sugar in the 2012/13 MY.

Exports and imports for raw sugar and refined sugar for the 2011/12 MY and 2012/13 MY (May 2012 to December 2012) are shown in the trade matrixes below. Japan (30,000 MT raw sugar), Mozambique (7,064 MT raw sugar and 45,688 MT refined sugar), Angola (25,882 MT refined sugar), Indonesia (36,000 MT raw sugar) and Zimbabwe (14,790 MT raw sugar and 26,474 MT refined sugar) were the major export destinations for South African sugar, so far in the 2012/13 MY.

Sugar imports reached 192,660 MTRV in the 2011/12 MY, representing 11 percent of production. Sugar imports are expected to stay at the same level in the 2012/13 MY, but should decrease to its normal six percent of local production in the 2013/14 MY or about 150,000 MTRV, on an increase in sugar production. Most sugar imports are from Brazil.

April 2013

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