Fairtrade South Africa has, with the support of the Dutch organisation "Interchurch Cooperative for Development Cooperation (ICCO), successfully capacitated 230 KwaZulu-Natal small-scale sugar farmers in becoming Fairtrade certified. The individual small-scale farmers have collectively formed two co-operatives: Sakh'okuhle Farmers Primary Cooperative Limited and Inzwakhele Trading Enterprise Primary Cooperative Limited, and together they are expected to initially produce in excess of 1,000 metric tons of Fairtrade Sugar per annum.
This is the first time Fairtrade Sugar has been produced in South Africa.
Fairtrade is an ethical certification whose main aim is to promote equality and sustainability in the farming sector in developing countries. Fairtrade is not a charity or an aid system, but rather an innovative business model based on ethical values. The model is devised to promote sustainable farming practices while providing a dignifying, long-term solution to poverty in the farming sector.
"Fairtrade currently works with over 1,5 million small-scale farmers and farm workers in the world, 61% of which located in Africa," says Arianna Baldo, executive director of Fairtrade South Africa. "The sugar cane industry in South Africa is largely dominated by large-scale farmers, with only 8% of sugar cane grown by small-scale farmers. Fairtrade has had a powerful and sustainable impact on the sugar industry in other countries, so it was a natural step to add sugar to our South African projects".
Fairtrade South Africa has partnered with Illovo Sugar South Africa through its Noodsberg Mill in KZN. Together they have identified the cooperatives to participate in the project and assisted the farmers in successfully completing the Fairtrade audits. Over and above this, Illovo Sugar SA is working closely with Fairtrade to assist in finding buyers for the Fairtrade Sugar.
"Illovo Sugar understands the importance of developing the industry and is committed to working with small-scale growers. Our partnership with Fairtrade on this project is an extension of our company ethos when it comes to small-scale farmers," says Darrell de Wet, Marketing Manager of Illovo Sugar SA. "We have been working very closely with the co-ops to ensure that they comply with all the certification requirements and have been assisting them in any way that we can".
The Fairtrade business model includes a voluntary certification system based on internationally recognised labour and environmental standards, which focuses on improving working and living conditions and on farming in a way that is sustainable for both people and the environment. In addition, the co-ops also receive a Fairtrade Development Premium of R600 for every ton of refined Fairtrade Sugar sold by Illovo Sugar. The premium is money given directly to the co-operatives for them to use in the growth and development of their community and/or business, such as investing in capacity building, purchasing transport vehicles, buying seed cane, or assisting with the overall infrastructure of the farms and surrounding communities.
"The economic benefit of the Fairtrade Development Premium will be unlocked through sales of the Fairtrade certified sugar. Local brands using sugar in their products, such as retail, food and beverage brands, now have the opportunity to grow the capacity of their small-scale sugar cane suppliers by simply purchasing Fairtrade sugar. If only 2% of the total sugar sold in South Africa was Fairtrade, over R20 million could be reinvested every year in transforming subsistence growers into more skillful and professional farmers," concludes Baldo.
Initially, the South African Fairtrade Sugar will be used by Cadbury's as an ingredient in one of their chocolate products. Over and above supplying the industrial market, the long-term plan is for Fairtrade Sugar consumer products to join the ranks of Fairtrade products currently available in South Africa including coffee, chocolate, tea, wine and juice.