Illovo Sugar (Malawi) plc has agreed to meet sugarcane growers this month to iron out their differences over the division of proceeds from the sale of sugarcane.
In a letter addressed to lawmaker for Nkhotakota North Henry Chimunthu Banda, who is leading the sugarcane growers, Illovo Malawi managing director Lekani Katandula said only dialogue can resolve the issues.
He said: “In spite of the various engagements we have had on these issues, we are willing to meet with you at a time convenient to both parties to engage further on the issues raised in your report with a view to finding an amicable solution that will suit both parties and ensure the sustainability of both businesses.
“This confirms our willingness to engage which position has not changed.”
Katandula said currently, Ministry of Industry and Trade has also taken interest in the issues and informed Illovo that they will host a meeting of all sugarcane stakeholders.
He said Illovo Malawi expects the ministry to call for such a meeting at least by July 17, but added that if it fails, Illovo proposes that the meeting takes place in Dwangwa, Nkhotakota on July 23.
There are a number of issues in contention between Malawi Stock Exchange-listed Illovo Sugar (Malawi) plc and sugarcane growers.
The contentious issue is the 16 percent cut in the price payable to farmers from K302 290 per tonne in 2018/2019 season to K253, 290 per tonne in the 2019/2020 season.
On June 26, Chimunthu Banda wrote Illovo Sugar (Malawi) plc asking for a meeting with farmers at its own convenient place, weeks after company officials failed to turn up for a meeting in Lilongwe with growers three weeks ago.
Reads the letter in part: “In seeking to engage you, our intention is to resolve issues amicably without involving the courts.
“In our relentless effort to seek justice for out-grower sugarcane farmers on our 12 demands, it remains our wish to engage you out of court on a date and at a place convenient to you.”
The letter indicated that should Illovo Malawi officials fail to meet the farmers this time around, they will have no option but to seek to redress from the High Court of Malawi.
Among other things, the sugarcane growers want the division of proceeds to be renegotiated and improved in favour of growers.
Currently, growers get 60 percent of the proceeds with the sugar manufacturer getting 40 percent.