Sugar and steel masterplans in the works – Ramaphosa

South Africa’s struggling sugar and steel industries are in line for their own sector-specific master plans, president Cyril Ramaphosa revealed during his State of the Nation Address (Sona) in Cape Town on Thursday night.

Ramaphosa has been pushing special master plans for key sectors in the local economy since becoming president in 2018.

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The sector master plans, which have the backing of business and labour, are along the lines of the government’s highly successful motor industry masterplan, known as the Motor Industry Development Programme (MIDP).

Described as “one of the most significant industrial policy interventions”, the MIDP has been going for over two decades, now under updated versions.

“We have developed a plan with farmers and industrial users to save jobs in the sugar industry and will finalise a Sugar Master Plan within the next six weeks; and expect a new Steel Master Plan to be finalised in the coming six months,” said Ramaphosa.

South Africa’s sugar and steel industries have been badly affected by cheap imports from Brazil and China. Both sectors have seen significant job losses in recent years and industry bodies have called on government to increase import tariffs to prevent dumping. This is also the case with the poultry industry.

Commenting further during Sona, President Ramaphosa said government has progressed in finalising and implementing master plans in vital parts of the economy. “These master plans bring government, labour and business together to develop practical measures to spur growth at sector level and each partner contributes to making it work,” he said.

“Thanks in large measure to the Auto Master Plan, we sold more cars to the rest of the world last year than ever before, providing jobs for young people in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal…. We also launched a new auto SEZ [Special Economic Zone] hub in Tshwane, which will expand production and local manufacture of components,” he added.

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Ramaphosa noted that the Clothing and Textiles Master Plan, which was signed last year and launched at the South Africa Investment Conference in November, aims to create 121 000 new jobs in the retail-clothing, textile and footwear sector over the next decade.

He also called on South Africans to buy local clothing and other products.

“This suit that I am wearing today, like last year, was proudly made by South African workers right here in Cape Town,” the president enthused.

“The Clothing and Textiles Master Plan involves commitments by retailers to buy goods locally, by manufacturers to invest and support transformation, and by labour to develop bargaining structures that promote agile manufacturing.… For its part, government has already begun to act vigorously against illegal imports, seizing almost 400 containers with under-invoiced products in the last quarter of 2019.”

He also said that the government had completed its Poultry Master Plan, aimed at supporting chicken farmers and processors. The plan targets saving some 54 000 jobs in the sector, while also creating new jobs.

“The industry is now focused on growth, greater production and more investment. We will within two weeks set a new poultry import tariff adjustment to support the local industry,” Ramaphosa pointed out.