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$200m sugarcane project launched
By ANGELA CHISHIMBA
 

PRESIDENT Mwanawasa yesterday launched the Nakambala sugarcane expansion project estimated to cost US$200 million. President Mwanawasa said the expansion project had put Zambia in the league of the major sugar producers in the world.

“It is good that Zambia will not only be known by its production of copper but sugar as well,” he said.

The project would expand the country’s sugar exports mainly to the European Union.

He said the project would ensure increased income and creation of more jobs.

The President said the production of ethanol by Zambia Sugar would also help reduce the import bill for petroleum.

He was confident that most of the US$200 million to be pumped into the expansion programme would come from Zambian banks, which would in turn derive profits out of it.

Mr Mwanawasa urged Zambians to position themselves and ensure they benefited from the project.

He appealed to the Zambia Sugar management to continue supporting indigenous Zambians in order to support the Citizens Economic Empowerment Act.

He urged management to assist local people to take advantage of business opportunities that may arise following the launch of the expansion programme.

He was glad that Zambia Sugar Company decided to invest in Zambia at a time when most investors feared to invest in the country.

He said Zambia was an investor-friendly country.

He paid tribute to traditional leaders in Southern Province for releasing land to put up the Albidon Nickel Mining and Zambia Sugar expansion projects.

Mr Mwanawasa also urged investors to pay attention to concerns of local communities.

“Investors should ensure that they take the owners of the land on board,” he said.

President Mwanawasa also held a meeting with the company to discuss labour matters.

He could not, however, disclose what had been discussed.

And Zambia Sugar managing director, Paul de Robillard, said the sugarcane expansion project was approved at a cost of K840 billion on March 28, 2007.

The project is based on a 50 per cent increase in cane crushing capacity of the factory, linked to expanded sugar cane growing and the construction of new canals to deliver irrigation water to new areas of sugarcane development.

The project will also result in Zambia Sugar becoming fully self-sufficient in its own electricity requirements.

Mr de Robillard said the anticipated growth in production would come from a combination of Zambia Sugar’s own estate operations, commercial out-growers and small-scale grower schemes, both new and existing, totalling 10,500 hectares.

He said the first phase of the expansion had started and would be completed in time for the sugar season in April 2008.

Mr de Robillard said as an alternative market, the unrestricted European market access entitlements for least-developed countries (LDCs), including Zambia, to be effected in 2009, would provide a minimum underpin price for the increased production.Under the EU reformed sugar regime, the price for bulk raw sugar would be guaranteed at a level that is 33 per cent lower than the existing price.

Mr de Robillard said the unrestricted nature of this initiative for sugar exporters in LDCs would also enable Zambia access the full value chain existing in the EU sugar market.

This would open opportunities to earn commercial premiums currently not available to exporters due to the EU’s restricted quota system.

He said molasses production would increase to 95,000 tons by the end of the project and at that stage, a feasibility study to investigate the production of alcohol for national fuel pool would be undertaken.

“It is envisaged that if viable, an ethanol plant would be able to supply approximately 10 per cent of the country’s fuel requirements,” he said.

Source: Zambia Daily Mail

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