A Farm Survey of Small-scale Sugarcane Growers in Nkomazi, Mpumalanga province, South Africa

Philip Woodhouse, Paul James


Against a context of declining sugar output in South Africa as a whole, the sugar industry in the Nkomazi Municipality of Mpumalanga Province has increased its share of the South African market. It has achieved this despite the transfer of at least 25 per cent of land growing sugarcane into black community ownership through South Africa’s land reform programme. The industry now claims that the majority of land used for sugar cane in Nkomazi is owned by the beneficiaries of land reform. This paper describes a survey of small-scale sugar-cane growers. It presents quantitative data that shows, on the one hand,  a process of land concentration and ‘accumulation from below’, visible in the emergence of medium-scale growers, and, on the other hand, a move by the sugar milling company to take more direct control of sugarcane growing through rental agreements with small-scale land-owners. The paper examines the causes and implications of these processes. It concludes that the pattern of small-scale sugar-cane production designed two decades ago has arguably benefitted and transformed the prospects of the small-scale growers and their children, but whether it can now evolve to provide a platform for agricultural livelihoods for a new generation remains to be tested.  



South Africa, Sugar industry, small-scale farmers, land reform, contract farming.


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