Women in sugar briefed on regulations

SARS compliance and labour laws

The business of sugarcane farming topped the agenda at the inaugural SA Canegrowers Women’s Sugar Conference held at KwaShukela to celebrate national women’s month.

The scores of women who packed out the event were treated to top speakers and topics relating to the intricacies of South African Revenue Service compliance as well as the importance of positive labour relations on farms.

In the picture above: Di Seccombe, SA Head of National Tax Training at the consultant company, Mazars, who warned the women at the event to be aware of changes affecting farmers in the new tax act.

Delegates were also updated on the ground-breaking SA Canegrowers Benefit Scheme for farm labourers which is already starting to impact on the lives of workers in the sugarcane industry.

Exceeded expectations

Brittain Walker from the fund administrator, Mihr, said since the fund was launched last year, R425 000 has been paid out to beneficiaries and R100 000 in claims was still pending.

She said the response by growers in Noodsberg, Eston and Sezela, where the scheme was initially introduced, had exceeded expectations.

Charlene Chubb, Phillipa Gordon and Caroline Richter at the inaugural SA Canegrowers Women’s Sugar Conference at Mount Edgecombe.
Pictures: Colleen Dardagan

The women attending the conference were mainly growers and land owners or those who headed up the administration on sugarcane farming operations.

Seccombe warned that SARS had closed loopholes in agriculture tax benefits, with officials closely monitoring compliance by those in the farming sector.

Downstream agri-processing

Seccombe explained that the Act was now very clear, specifically on tax collection linked to land ownership by individuals, family owned Trusts, and companies started up by farmers for operational purposes.

She said a good understanding of the interpretation of the legislation regarding revenue from farm produce and downstream agri-processing was critical to ensure compliance and to avoid exorbitant fines if farmers were found to be in contravention of the Act.

Jahni De Villiers, a labour relations expert at Agri-SA brought delegates up to date with programmes under way at the national body to promote farming and its importance to the economy at national government level.

International recognition for farming programme

She said agriculture was recently highlighted by President Cyril Ramaphosa as critical to the growth of the economy and that Agri-SA was well represented at national bodies such as the National Economic Development and Labour Council, where discussions were under way to develop plans to increase employment and work opportunities, particularly for young people and specifically in agriculture.

More than 800 000 employed

More than 800 000 people are employed on farms in SA, with just 58 000 of those workers considered skilled, she said.

Corporate Executive at SA Canegrowers, Kathy Hurly, said despite the volatile and uncertain conditions facing sugarcane farmers, the association was hard at work lobbying national government on behalf of the sector, particularly in relation to an increased import tariff on imported refined sugar flooding into the country on the back of a depressed world price.

Partnership to drive business and research in KZN

She said the association was also engaged in the land expropriation without compensation debate, as well as a number of “special projects” aimed at promoting the sector and supporting farmers and their staff.

In her welcome to the delegates, sugarcane farmer and grower council member at Sezela, Mam Ncwane, used salt as an analogy to describe the importance of the role played by women in the sugar sector.

She said as salt was an essential element in the diet, so women were essential in finding solutions to the many challenges facing the future sustainability of the sector. – Copy by Colleen Dardagan