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Perceptions of key business and financial risks by large-scale sugarcane farmers in KwaZulu-Natal in a dynamic socio-political environment

Published by:
Publication date
Number of Pages
Type of Publication:
Articles & Journals
Focus Region:
Sub-Saharan Africa
Focus Topic:
Agricultural Value Chains / Agri-Businesses
Type of Risk:
Type of Risk Managment Option:
Risk assessment
R Mac Nicol, GF Ortmann, SRD Ferrer

This study identifies sources of risk that commercial sugarcane farmers in the province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), South Africa, presently perceive to pose the greatest threat to the viability of their businesses. Sugarcane contributes approximately 82% of the income from field crops in KZN, with 72% of the crop planted by large-scale growers. Data obtained in 2006 via structured personal interviews of 76 large-scale sugarcane farmers from a stratified random sample of 110 farmers in two separate mill-supply areas of KZN were used to elicit farmers’ perceptions of various sources of risk. The most important risk sources were found to be the threat posed by land reform, minimum wage legislation and the variability of the sugar price, in that order. Land reform and minimum wage legislation did not feature prominently in past studies of KZN farmers during the 1990s. Factor analysis identified additional risk dimensions that exist within the remaining risk sources. Regional differences between the two study areas were also evident. Recommendations include that government improve accessibility to information regarding future plans for land and labour policies, and that farmers become more proactive in terms of obtaining information to reduce uncertainty and resultant efficiency barriers.