Ishemunyoro Chingwere Business Reporter
Zimbabwe Stock Exchange listed, Hippo Valley Estates Limited, has cleared more than 67 percent of the 4 000 hectares of virgin land availed for the famed Project Kilimanjaro that is poised to transform the company and catapult it to becoming a competitive global producer of sugar.
The US$40 million Project Kilimanjaro was launched by President Mnangagwa in November last year.
The project is a joint venture encompassing Tongaat Hulett, banks and Government. It is expected to culminate in the development of 4 000 hectares of virgin land into sugar plantations and create 2 000 jobs in the next 12 months.
In its latest quarterly update for the period ended June 30, 2020, the agriculture and agri-processing behemoth said 2 700 hectares of virgin land has so far been cleared and ripped with 466 hectares already under sugarcane.
The sugar processor has opened discussions with Government in a bid to secure alternative funding in light of delays in the availing of funds by some partners due to a depressed economic environment occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Work on the 4 000 hectares out grower cane development project in partnership with Government and local banks (Project Kilimanjaro) is on-going with a total of 2 700 hectares of virgin land having been cleared and ripped, 466 hectares of which have been planted to sugarcane,” advised the company.
“During the first quarter ended June 30, 2020, work on the project has been slowed down by delays in obtaining adequate funding from financial institutions due to the prevailing adverse economic environment.
“Alternative funding structures for the project are under consideration in consultation with Government, which will result in the project being progressed on a phased approach.
“On completion, Project Kilimanjaro will contribute significantly to the industry target of full utilisation of installed milling capacity of 600 000 tons sugar by 2023/24, positioning the country to be one of the most competitive sugar producers in the region and globally,” said the company.
Notwithstanding some of its current challenges, largely anchored on the Covid-19 economic slowdown, the company says it remains optimistic that the Zimbabwe sugar industry is well positioned to be one of the most competitive in the region by 2023 on the back of increased production and operating efficiencies.
The company also bemoaned the just ended, 2019/20, rainfall season which it described as having been poor and having failed to register significant inflows into its catchment dams.
It is against this background that the company is instituting water conservation initiatives including reduced water application rates “to levels that are not a deterrent to normal crop growth” as a precautionary measure.
There is also an expectation that this year will see a slight increase in total sugar industry production to within the bracket of 445 000 and 455 000 tonnes up from the previous year which had a total annual production of 441 000 tonnes.
Hippo Valley Estates Limited’s share of the total is estimated at 50 percent.
Boosting the company’s prospects is Government’s assurance that it is expediting the processing of the company’s 99 Year Lease thus giving the company the much needed confidence