From George Maponga in Masvingo
Zimbabwe will in October this year host an inaugural international sugar conference that seeks to ramp up both domestic and international investment in the country’s sugar industry, which remains largely untapped, with potential to expand into a multi-billion-dollar industry.
The conference comes at a times when President Mnangagwa’s administration has been spreading the Zimbabwe is Open for Business gospel to the international world, exhorting investors to come and set up shop in the country in the wake of an improved operating environment predicated on new ease of doing business policies by Government.
The two-day conference is set for Triangle Country Club, and is expected to draw more than 350 participants locally, regionally and internationally, with top Government officials led by President Mnangagwa expected to grace the event, which is set to be a game-changer for the sugar industry if all goes according to plan.
Zimbabwe’s sugar industry and the entire value chain remains largely unexplored, with vast opportunities in the offing starting from the area of cane production, where an emerging breed of indigenous commercial farmers and Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe, run cane fields that straddle over 40 000 hectares, producing more than 1 million tonnes of raw sugar per annum.
The country’s only two sugar mills at Triangle and Hippo Valley have an installed capacity of 640 000 tonnes of sucrose annually, but currently produce around 48 000 tonnes, leaving room for ramp up if there is increased investment in cane production.
The managing direct of DEAT Capital, which is organising the conference, Mr Nicky Moyo, said the sugar industry is a potential game-changer for Zimbabwe, saying many opportunities remained lurking in the entire value chain. He said the coming on board of Tugwi-Mukosi Dam is set to open fresh avenues to expand the sugar industry in terms of both sucrose production and energy.
“The sugar conference comes also when we have the Tugwi-Mukosi Dam, which has scope to add 30 000 hectares of cane fields under irrigation on top of the existing plantations owned by Tongaat and commercial small-scale farmers,” he said.
“The sugar industry should also be looked in the context of sugarcane to produce ethanol, and as you know, the country has been facing fuel shortages and producing more ethanol for blending purposes will be a boon for the local energy sector, while also creating room for exports, earning the country hard currency.
“Jobs will also be created, which will have positive spin-offs on the economy.”
Mr Moyo said international investors expected to grace the conference would need to draw lessons from the Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe story, after the firm managed to hold fort in the country’s Lowveld sugar industry where it continues to do well.
“Tongaat’s presence in the local sugar industry as an international company is in itself a catalyst for additional investment in the local sugar industry. The company (Tongaat) has been in Zimbabwe for a long time and that presence is a plus on the investment climate in the country,” said Mr Moyo.