Sugar pro­duc­tion to soar in South­ern Africa

Observer on Saturday - - News - By Bodwa Mbingo

Sugar pro­duc­tion is pro­jected to surge in South­ern Africa in the next two years due to the avail­abil­ity of ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter and elec­tric­ity, which are key to the growth of the in­dus­try.

The re­gion re­ceived above-nor­mal rain­fall dur­ing the 2016/17 rainy sea­son, which will en­sure avail­abil­ity of ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter to sus­tain the sugar cane crop and should sub­stan­tially im­prove sugar pro­duc­tion in the next two years.

Ac­cord­ing to African In­de­pen­dent, South­ern Africa’s sugar pro­duc­tion gi­ant Ton­gaat Huletts Pri­vate Ltd, with op­er­a­tions in Zim­babwe, South Africa, Swazi­land and Mozam­bique, has pro­jected a sharp in­crease in sugar pro­duc­tion, since the re­gion has enough wa­ter un­til the 2018/19 farm­ing sea­son.

In his an­nual re­port, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer (CEO) Peter Saude said power sup­ply in Zim­babwe - which has been a ma­jor stum­bling block in pro­duc­tion - has been ad­dressed through a se­cure power agree­ment deal with govern­ment, while the com­ple­tion of the coun­try’s gi­ant Tokwe-Mukosi dam will en­sure a re­li­able wa­ter sup­ply for ir­ri­ga­tion.

The Tokwe-Mukosi dam in South­ern Zim­babwe was com­pleted in De­cem­ber last year and has the ca­pac­ity to hold 1.8 bil­lion cu­bic litres of wa­ter. Saude said in Zim­babwe sugar pro­duc­tion is ex­pected to shoot up from 440 000 tons dur­ing the 2017/18 sea­son to a record 570 000 tons in 2018/19. “This rep­re­sents util­i­sa­tion of 90 per cent of the Zim­babwe op­er­a­tions in sugar milling ca­pac­ity,” Saude said.

The CEO also said that in Zim­babwe sugar sales in do­mes­tic mar­kets grew by four per­cent dur­ing the past year

In ad­di­tion to sugar pro­duc­tion the Zim­babwe op­er­a­tions have been pro­duc­ing fuel-grade ethanol for blend­ing in the lo­cal mar­ket. Dur­ing the 2016/17 farm­ing sea­son the com­pany pro­duced 21 mil­lion litres of ethanol.

Five mil­lion litres were sup­plied to in­dus­trial users while the re­main­ing 16m were used for fuel blend­ing.

He said the avail­abil­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity of elec­tric­ity for ir­ri­ga­tion in Mozam­bique and Zim­babwe has im­proved.

“We have seen re­duced load­shed­ding and we have sealed power sup­ply agree­ment deals to en­sure that pro­duc­tion is not in­ter­rupted,” he said.

The com­pany projects sugar pro­duc­tion in Mozam­bique will in­crease from 221 000 tons dur­ing the 2017/18 farm­ing sea­son to 280 000 tons in 2018/19.

Pro­duc­tion

In South Africa a boost in pro­duc­tion from 500 000 to 564 000 tons is ex­pected dur­ing 2018/19. In Zim­babwe sugar pro­duc­tion had taken a nose­dive in the past few years due to the coun­try’s chaotic land seizures. For­mer lib­er­a­tion war fight­ers had threat­ened to in­vade sugar cane fields owned by Ton­gaat Huletts, ar­gu­ing that they also wanted to en­ter into the lu­cra­tive sugar in­dus­try.

How­ever, Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe told his party sup­port­ers last month to keep their hands off all Ton­gaat prop­er­ties.

Ton­gaat Huletts has 38 200 staff in South­ern Africa and at­tempts to dis­rupt pro­duc­tion will re­sult in mas­sive job losses.

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