The milling sector employs upwards of 7 000 people at 14 sugar mills and at the companies’ administration offices. Two of the mills are located in the Mpumalanga Province while the remainder are located in the KwaZulu-Natal Province.
Illovo Sugar (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd and Tongaat Hulett Sugar South Africa Ltd own four mills each while RCL Foods Sugar & Milling (Pty) Ltd owns three mills. Gledhow Sugar Company (Pty) Ltd, UCL Company (Pty) Ltd and Umfolozi Sugar Mill (Pty) Ltd own one mill each.
There are five refineries in the industry manufacturing white sugar. Four of which are annexed to sugar mills whilst Tongaat Hulett Sugar South Africa Ltd operates a stand-alone refinery located in Durban. Not all milling companies own refineries.
Sugar which is not sold by milling companies in the domestic market is delivered to SASA for export. Some milling companies export raw bagged and refined sugar to countries which do not form part of the domestic market.
Utilising all the potential of the sugar cane plant is the key factor in today’s highly integrated sugar milling operations. Other than producing high quality sugars of international standard, milling companies produce a range of other products from the processing of sugar cane. Amongst these are animal feeds and chemical products e.g. alcohol and furfural.
The milling sector, through the milling process, has significant potential to manufacture environmentally friendly renewable energy by generating electricity for the national grid and with the production of fuel grade ethanol. However, in order to achieve this, a legislative framework is required.