Sugarcane growers seek answers on levy arrears

Henry

Creditors of struggling sugar giant Tongaat Hulett have voted in favor of a business rescue proposal by the Vision Group, paving the way for a turnaround plan to be implemented within the next few months.

While this vote is an important step to save Tongaat Hulett from ruin, the South African Sugar Cane Growers Association (SA Canegrowers) is still waiting for confirmation as to whether the Vison Group will pay the operating charges that Tongaat Hulett owes to the South African Sugar Association (Sasa). .

“The entry of Tongaat Hulett into business rescue in October 2022 has left the industry in a precarious position and caused great uncertainty for producers who rely on the company’s mills on the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal,” the association said on Friday.

“These hardships have been exacerbated by the decision of the business rescue practitioners to challenge the legal validity of the financial obligations – more than R900 million – that Tongaat Hulett owes to the operating body.”

The whole process was dealt a further blow when the RGS group withdrew from the process to take over Tongaat Hulett at the eleventh hour, leaving the Vision Group, owned by Robert Gumede, as the only potential buyer.

RGS’s offer included a firm commitment to meet the obligations of Tongaat Hulett to pay the operating charges owed to Sasa.

The Vision Group has yet to commit to paying outstanding charges before any appeals are exhausted, leaving the door open for further and time-consuming litigation.

“Nevertheless, while this important case remains unsolved, the SA Sugarcane Growers’ Association is encouraged by the business rescue practitioners’ success in obtaining a partner to help save Tongaat Hulett’s mills.

“Tens of thousands of small-scale producers and workers depend on these mills, so maintaining their operations is extremely important.”

The association will keep a close eye on developments in the coming weeks as the business rescue process nears completion.

“Our priority remains the successful conclusion of the business rescue process that allows Tongaat Hulett to continue and protect the income of those who depend on its operations.”