Sugar production to soar in Southern Africa
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.
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.