Malawi government, through the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, says it is finalizing the Sugar Bill which will help to regulate and level the playing field in the sugar industry.
The Ministry’s Principal Secretary Cliff Kenneth Chiunda said this after touring Illovo Sugar-Dwangwa Estate, Ethanol Company Limited (EthCo) and Carbon Dioxide and Allied Products Company in Dwangwa, Nkhotakota district Monday.
Chiunda also assured the industry’s players of government support to foster value addition to agricultural products in order to generate more forex for the country.
He further committed to continue working with the companies in addressing challenges the face in the industry and that the Sugar Bill will be instrumental to the industry.
“Industrialization is a global issue and value chain companies must move towards that direction. We have seen the value chain right from cane processing through to sugar production and packaging. We have also seen that the mollases are not disposed off, but they are used to produce ethanol and its byproduct is used for carbon dioxide production.
“As government, we are impressed with this and should be supported to remain the country’s key forex earner,” said Chiunda.
Illovo Sugar-Dwangwa Estate General Manager Lal Bachan, while committing to remain responsive and customer-focused, said the sugar industry has been confronted by many challenges including unstable market demands, proliferation of smuggled sugar into the country, adverse weather conditions, and pests and diseases.
“We are aware of efforts being taken by government with through Malawi Revenue Authority to address the problem of sugar being smuggled into the country.
“While we welcome the competition following the opening of Salima Sugar Company, there are some challenges that come with it, most notably the decision by many farmers to sell cane to the new Factory instead of meeting the obligations they have with their associations to supply to us.
“We are also facing immerse challenges on deforestation and land encroachment by the surrounding communities, and some of these actually steal our cane. whilst we are trying to resolve these issues with the communities through round table discussions, we do not seem to be making headway. We, therefore request you to help us through your local government structures to have these matters solved,” said Bachan.
He however said despite these challenges, they are striving to be a world class organization but “on our own we may not achieve the desired goals hence, we appeal for government’s assistance”.
On her part, EthCo Chief Executive Officer Lusubilo Chakaniza also said the company faces various challenges in trying to sustain performance in the volatile macro-economic environment.
EthCo was established in response to the energy crisis in 1970s and Malawi had to develop mechanisms that would reduce its foreign expenditure bill by substituting imported petrol with locally produce ethanol.
“The company has been operating at half its installed capacity due to inadequate raw materials in form of molasses. Our business partners do supply us all the mollases that they produce, but the quantities are not enough to have the distillery run throughout the year.
“EthCo is embarking on an additional Raw Materials Project (Project RAMA) that will solve this problem when fully implemented. The concept is to use small holder farmers to grow sugarcane and supply a syrup mill that will be installed at Mpondagaga near T/A Mphonde’s headquarters, 45km south of Dwangwa,” said Chakaniza.