Illovo, a subsidiary company of ABF, is dependent on outgrowers for cane to maintain its status as Africa’s largest sugar producer. The threat of water scarcity has led Illovo to fund various projects, including R&D and water infrastructure, as well as the Sustainable Sugarcane Farm Management System (SUSFARMS) initiative. The implementation of SUSFARMS principles has resulted in US$6.8million savings annually.
Over half of the cane processed by Illovo is produced by independent outgrowers, who vary in size from extensive farms to smallholders. Drops in cane supply from outgrowers can significantly impact Illovo’s productivity. Maintaining and developing outgrower supply remains a key area of focus for Illovo, and Illovo actively engages outgrowers on this issue. Customers, funders and potential investors are also increasingly interested in the environmental impact of products and services.
To alleviate water-related risk, Illovo has funded water conveyance infrastructure to serve vulnerable outgrowers and ensure a sustainable sugarcane supply. Outgrowers also benefit from Illovo’s support for drought resistant crop development and investment in new technology.
Within its own direct operations, Illovo is committed to the effective use of water and is constantly pushing forward with the SUSFARMS initiative, a farming system designed to encourage sustainable sugarcane production through the implementation of better management practices (BMPs). The main objective of SUSFARMS is to focus on the three main sustainability principles of prosperity, social and environment.
Illovo has committed itself to implement BMPs as part of the SUSFARMS program, something which will require a concerted effort in the coming years. Illovo has already seen the benefits of a sustainable approach, financially and otherwise, and the challenge is now to expand its leadership status beyond the South Africa sugar industry, regionally or even globally.