CHIREDZI -Zimbabwe’s sugar output, on an upward trend for the past three years, is set to shoot up again this year, due to a firm capacity utilization programme by both private farmers and sugar milling giant, Tongaat Hulett.
The availability of water has also boosted production, with production expected to reach 500,000 metric tonnes this year, surpassing last year’s 460,000 metric tonnes.
Despite poor rains this year the country’s major dams have had enough water to sustain sugar cane production hence a sharp increase in production, according to projections from both Tongaat Hulett and private farmers.
Commercial Sugar Producers Association senior official Tawanda Mafurutu said private farmers were aiming to increase production from 95 tonnes per hectare to over 100 tonnes per hectare this year.
“We had initially projected to increase production from 95 tonnes per hectare to 97 tonnes, but we have since reviewed the figure upwards to over 100 tonnes per hectare,” said Mafurutu.
“This is part our firm capacity utilization programme and we are not far away from our projected output. The availability of water has been core to our success since sugar cane production in the country relies heavily on irrigation.”
Tongaat Hulett has projected a production increase of five tonnes per hectare – from 115 tonnes per hectare to 120 tonnes per hectare. According to the company’s projection results, sugar production will reach 500,000 metric tonnes during the 2019/20 farming season.
“With adequate water, the industry will accelerate current efforts to maximize sugar production,” said the company in its analysis of the 2018 farming season.
“We project an output of 500 000 metric tonnes during the 2019 farming season”.
During the 2017 farming season, about 393,000 metric tonnes of sugar were produced, while 460,000 tonnes were produced in 2018.
The department of research and specialist services has also projected a huge increase in sugar production.
Sugar remains second to tobacco in the country’s foreign currency agricultural earnings index.
Completion of the country’s biggest inland water body, Tugwi-mukosi dam, has assured farmers of a consistent supply of irrigation water to sustain the sugar cane crop.
Other water bodies like Bangala, Mutirikwi, Siya, and Manjerenje dams also have water to supply the sugar cane plantations in the lowveld.
Tongaat Hulett produces about 80 percent of the total sugar production while 20 percent is produced by private farmers.
At least 65 percent of the produced sugar is meant for domestic use, while only 35 percent is exported.
Before the year 2000, sugar cane production was a sole preserve for South African headquartered Tongaat. The advent of the country’s land reform programme saw private farmers get allocated land that enabled them to enter the lucrative business.
Tongaat, in partnership with the private sector, has embarked on a new sugar cane development project on 4000 hectares, which is expected to propel sugar production to a further upward spiral beyond the 2020/21 farming season.
Tongaat Hulett produces sugar from its plantations in Hippo Valley and Triangle, where the company enjoys sugar cane milling rights from its state of the art milling plants.