sugar-cane industry, farming, small-scale farmers, challenges, qualitative research, South Africa


This research sought to determine survivability of Black Small-Scale Sugar-cane Growers (BSSSGs), in the Ugu District Municipality of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, amid the severe decline in the sugar-cane industry. The qualitative research approach was employed. Fifteen in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. The study revealed, among other things, that the majority of respondents were optimistic about the future of the industry, and as such, were planning to add to the existing hectares of sugar-cane planted. Notwithstanding evidence of the decline in profitability, which is advanced as one of the drivers of the industry decline, most BSSSGs stated profit as the motive for the planned increase in hectares. On the causes for the industry decline, only a handful of farmers linked this to international competitiveness, while others indicated transport costs as one of the drivers of the decline. Furthermore, the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) Housing Scheme and the Land Restitution Programme were also mentioned by farmers as contributing significantly to loss of productive cane land to competing uses, for reasons discussed in detail in the study. Key lessons may be learned from this study to enhance survivability within the industry. The research findings are critical for addressing challenges that impede the survivability of BSSSGs in South Africa.

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