SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa’s agri-business company, Tongaat Hulett, has announced the appointment of Rob Aitken as new permeant Chief Executive Officer (CFO) and executive director, effective March 2019, reports Business Report.
Rob Aitken has been the acting CFO for the past six months since the departure of Murray Munro who resigned in August 2018.
Tongaat said that Aitkens experience in the accounting and sugar industry will help the company meet its ambitions of revitalising the sector.
“Aitken is a qualified Chartered Accountant (CA) in South Africa (SA) with 14 years’ experience, nine of which have been in the sugar industry and within an organisation previously listed on the JSE (Johannesburg Stock Exchange).
He is well qualified and has the necessary experience and understanding to fulfil this role effectively,” the group said
The company has been undergoing restructuring in its management with Aitkens’ appointment coming few days after the company announced Gavin Hudson as chief executive officer.
Aitken and Hudson assume their roles at a time when the group is struggling to recover from a challenging operation period after posting declined profits in during its previous financial year.
Tongaat reported a headline loss of US$6.27 million compared to the headline earnings of US$47.65 million the previous year while the operating profit fell 64 % to US$38.21 million from US$105.9 million in 2017.
The firm attributed the decline to difficult local market conditions experienced by the sugar operations in South Africa and Mozambique during the second half of 2017/18.
According to Tongaat, the effects have spilled over the first half of 2018/19, which resulted in a negative impact on both revenue and cane valuations.
Tongaat Hulett’s businesses are centred in animal feeds, sugar and artificial starch production as well as property management and in South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
According to Business Report, SA Cane Growers’ Association chairperson Graeme Stainbank said that the country’s sugar sector was in an unprecedented state of crisis.
Meanwhile, Sugar industry in SA has been experiencing challenges which have compelled sugar cane growers to appeal for support as they seek to help save the multibillion sector from collapse.
The sector, has been battling the severe drought which has hit major producing areas in the country, plunging sugar prices, little cushioning against imports, and dropping demand.
The association called on the government to grant the industry tariff protection from cheap imports, tighten restrictions to prohibit sugar entering the country that wasn’t subject to duties and to invest in innovations including ethanol production.