Susco programme half-complete

HARARE - Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed sugar producer Tongaat Hullet’s 50,3 percent-owned Zimbabwean operation, Hippo Valley Estates (Hippo), says its Successful Rural Sugarcane Farming Community (Susco) programme is half-complete.

“Seven thousand one hundred hectares have been ploughed out and replanted and this equates approximately to 47 percent of the total area that has been allocated to out grower cane farmers,” chief executive Sydney Mtsambiwa told businessdaily at the sidelines of the company’s annual general meeting on Wednesday.

“The plan is we plough out and replant some 4 000 hectares per year and over the next three to four years we should be able to have done the entire 16 000 hectares,” added Mutsambiwa.

Mutsambiwa said the Susco project, together with giving priority to local suppliers for its procurement, was part of the company’s move towards empowering Zimbabwean locals under the Indigenisation Act.

“Effectively it will take up grower production from the current 530 000 tonnes of cane to around 1,7 million tonnes. In value terms that represents revenue uplift to the farmers from the current $35 million to about $108 million at current prices.”

Mutsambiwa said the so far $30 million had been set aside for the project, half of which had already been drawn down.

A 13 million Euro grant has also been secured from the European Union (EU) — a major market for the sugar firm.

Mutsambiwa said the European Union (EU) was a major market of exports, accounting for 40 percent of sales.

He said EU was buying sugar at premium prices adding that Hippo expected to surpass its forecast sugar production of 190 000 tonnes in 2012/13 season.

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