Sugar Firm Scouts for Partner

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The Iyambezi Sugar Estate (Pty) Ltd is looking for a business partner to enter a joint venture in the planned multi-billion-dollar sugar project in Caprivi. Feasibility studies into the project done in 1997 and also between 2001 and 2002 recommended that Government should go ahead with a sugar plantation at Lake Liyambezi. A board member, Castro Samunzala told New Era yesterday the business does not have money and needs a partner who can inject cash and procure equipment for the project. The board of the sugar company comprises 10 people. “We are stuck, we need money,” he said. The company is already registered and is now awaiting a lease agreement from the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement, with which it can source finances to kick-start the project. Plans are afoot to plant sugar, fruit and vegetables on 16 000 hectares of land, that will see 7 000 Namibians being employed. It is estimated that the long-delayed project will cost around N$3 billion. Once up and running, the project is envisaged to change the whole economic situation in the Caprivi region, which is the poorest region in the country according to the UNDP Human Development Report of 2000. Samunzala said although plans are to start the project as early as 2007, he did not know how quick the sugar committee would be able to get an investor on board. Due to low global sugar prices, the plantation will not focus on the production of sugar only but also go into animal feed, fertilizer and alcohol production from sugar residue. Permanent Secretary for Trade and Industry Andrew Ndishishi, who is equally excited about the project, said recently due to low prices, it was not advisable to embark on sugar alone but mixed crops as well as other uses. He said a Brazilian sugar expert who visited the country last month also advised that there should be a balance between sugar and alcohol, which is produced from molasses. With the world now going over to unleaded petrol, ethanol, a by-product of sugarcane will find a lucrative market. “At the moment the price is best for ethanol which is used to refine petrol and I think we will find a good market for alcohol to use for the fuel industry,” Ndishishi said. Ethanol can be used as fuel for automobiles either alone in a special engine or as an additive to gasoline for petroleum engines. It can also be blended with gasoline in varying quantities to reduce the consumption of petroleum fuels, as well as to reduce air pollution. One of the future uses of ethanol, which is currently being studied, is as an extender for car fuel. Ethanol derived from crops such as sugar is a potentially sustainable energy resource that may offer environmental and long-term economic advantages over fossil fuel. Sugarcane has enough energy not only for completely sustained ethanol production, but also for generating surplus, that may be sold to utilities. The PS said the sugar expert felt that the soil of the region is already rich in potassium and producing potassium from the crop would be used to enrich the soil further in order to increase the production of other crops that are being envisaged. He said the project will also improve livestock farming in the region with the production of animal feed from molasses. Namibia buys its molasses from Mazabuka in southern Zambia and sugar from Mpumalanga in South Africa. The sugar is packed locally in Tsumeb. Other things that can be produced from sugar include electricity, traditional medicine and the production of polishes and paper. Namibia faces power problems due to the fact that the country generates little electricity. The fibrous residue of cane sugar, called bagasse, is used as a fuel for the generation of electricity, which is also needed for sugar production. Considering the vastness of the project, which will require more planning, Samunzala said, the project is looking at planting maize and fruits to generate funds. “If we fail to start this year, we can plant other crops to generate funds,” added Samunzala.