Thursday, August 12, 2010

Govt courts Indian investors in sugar sector

Govt courts Indian investors in sugar sector
By Chiwoyu Sinyangwe
Thu 12 Aug. 2010, 15:20 CAT

ZAMBIA Sugar Plc has played down the possible competition likely to come from an Indian firm planning to invest in sugar production in Nansanga farm bloc.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that Indian commercial farmers, mostly specialising in sugar production, are expected in the country in December to explore prospects of investing in the Nansanga farm bloc.

But in an interview after the company conducted an open day for its shareholders in Mazabuka on Wednesday, Zambia Sugar Plc head of corporate affairs Lovemore Sievu said the country’s biggest sugar producer was too firmly entrenched to fear any possible competition from new entrants into the sector. Sievu said the domestic sugar market was very small and that extra players in the sector were likely to grow the product for export market rather than domestic consumption.

Zambia Sugar Plc currently produces in excess of 400, 000 tonnes of sugar and only 150, 000 is consumed locally, the remainder being exported mainly to the Great Lakes region and European Union market.

“For a long time, we are the only company that has been producing sugar and then we had two companies that came in,” Sievu said. “Zambia Sugar has continued to hold its own. Our brand is strong and Zambia is self-sufficient in sugar production. In fact, we can only sell a third of the sugar that we produce, and if people want to come and produce sugar here, I am sure they have done their market research and due diligence.” Sievu said Zambia Sugar was determined to defend its dominance of the local sugar market. “I guess if someone is coming, probably, they have some other places where they want to market their sugar,” Sievu said. “We are entrenched in Zambia and we have a strong brand. Like in anything, we will defend our market.”

Zambia Sugar Plc is the largest producer of sugar, with Nakambala estate and a mill in Mazabuka giving approximately 89.6 per cent of total production while Consolidated Farming Limited (CF) is second, contributing about 9.8 per cent towards national production at its estate and mill in the Kafue flats in Kafue. Little-known Kalungwishi Estates Limited of Kasama accounts for the remaining 0.60 per cent of the sugar production. And Sievu said Zambia Sugar was on course to raise sugar output to 440, 000 tonnes from the current 315, 000 tonnes after completing its major expansion programme. “The plant has stabilised and is running very well and operating at rated capacity,” said Sievu. “We are confident that this year will be another record year for Zambia Sugar. And we do not expect to have another sugar shortage in the country.”

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