Tongaat eyes increased exports

HARARE - The local unit of Johannesburg-listed Tongaat Hullet (THZ) says it plans to increase its sugar exports to the European Union (EU) backed by a forecasted increase in crop production.

Zimbabwe, through the EU Sugar Adaptation Strategy, has a duty and quota-free access into the preferential markets of the EU and into the United States (US).

“Every year we export to the EU and this year 125 000 tonnes have been exported.

We will have to increase our production in line with export volumes,” THZ chief executive Sydney Mutsambiwa said.

He said small-scale growers had contributed 15 percent of its sugar production with an increase anticipated in the coming seasons.

“We expect the small-scale growers to contribute as much as 35-38 percent of sugar production going forward and we are working with them to realise that,” the company executive said.

Mutsambiwa said the company had submitted its indigenisation plan and was still awaiting a response.

“We put everything on table including such issues as our social responsibility programmes,” he said.

According to the United States department of Agriculture: Foreign Agricultural Service, local sugar exports are projected to reach 160 000 tonnes in the 2012/13 season, with the EU and the US as major export destinations.

Due to firm domestic prices, no regional exports are expected in 2012/13 season.

Sugarcane production in the 2012/13 season is estimated at 3,5 million tonnes, 17 percent more than the three million of the 2011/12 season.

THZ recently tendered for tillage services on 4 400 hectares (ha) of sugar plantation land, as the company advances its Successful Rural Communities (Susco) project.

Susco is meant to assist private farmers boost their annual supply of sugar-cane to 1,4 million tonnes equivalent to 180 000 tonnes of sugar-from the current 488 000 tonnes equivalent to 61 000 tonnes sugar by 2015.

THZ said the tillage tender to be completed by March 2013 is part of the two companies’ core operating strategy to improve cane yields through a comprehensive rehabilitation program of private sugarcane farmer’s fields.

The project involves a plough out and replanting of the land to be carried out in two phases.

At the end of 2011, the sugar milling company said it had granted $3,2 million towards its accelerated sugarcane production recovery programme since inception of the initiative in November.

THZ last year allocated $1,2 million to working capital requirements and one million dollars towards establishing the first 500 hectares of sugar cane to be replanted under the Susco project.

The other one million dollars has been allocated to socio-economic development projects and in this regard $200 000 has been committed to improving medical services provided in Chiredzi including the purchase of an ambulance for the Mkwasine community, the purchase of hospital beds and renovations of Chiredzi District hospital and its satellite clinics.

The project is expected to re-establish the farmer sugarcane production area from its current 9 100 hectares to 15 880 hectares with an anticipated improvement in yields from 54 tonnes cane per hectare to 90 tonnes cane per hectare.

The investment by the company is expected to contribute 4,8 million tonnes of sugarcane that are required for the sugar mills to operate at their installed milling capacity of 600 000 tonnes sugar per annum.

Tongaat Hullet is a South African agricultural and agro-processing business which wholly owns Triangle and has a 50 percent stake in Hippo Valley Estates.

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