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Sugarcane yields rise

From Tawanda Mangoma in chiredzi
Tongaat Hullets Zimbabwe (THZ) is expecting to produce more sugar this year following good rains that hit the country, as compared to last year when there was a decrease in sugarcane yields due to the El Nino induced drought.

The company, which usually enjoys a harvest of 120 tonnes per hectare, last year recorded an average yield of 83 tonnes per hectare.

In an interview with The Herald, THZ managing director Mr Sydney Mtsambiwa said a number of mitigating factors played a role in the reduced yields.

“Quite a number of issues affected our harvest last season, firstly it was the issue of inadequate irrigation water due to prevailing drought conditions, sub optimal maintenance of key bulk water delivery infrastructure such as dams, canals and pumping installations, as well as losses along the main canal systems due to illegal water abstractions,” he said.

Mr Mtsambiwa said they ended up abandoning some of their fields due to irrigation water challenges and this had a bearing in their average harvest.

“Irrigation for the period September to December 2016 was at 70 percent of normal crop requirement,” he said. “We also faced delays by suppliers in delivering critical imported inputs such as fuel, fertilisers, herbicides and maintenance spares required to support the operation on account of the prevailing liquidity (forex) challenges,” said Mr Mtsambiwa.

This year, the company is expecting higher yields compared to last year given that most of the water reservoirs are filled to capacity.

“This year we are expecting to revert to our traditional yields, we have enough water to irrigate our cane throughout the season,” said Mr Mtsambiwa.

Tongaat Hullets is set to kick start sugar milling operations this month, working on a new Distribution of Proceeds (DOP) frame work which was given the green light by the Minister of Industry and Commerce Dr Mike Bimha.

The developments come after both farmers and Tongaat Hullets had issues over the percentage at which the company was getting after processing each tonne of raw sugarcane, resulting in Government calling for a review process.

According to a letter dated 23 November 2016, Minister Bimha said he was calling for the implementation of the DOP calculated by renowned chartered accountants Enerst and Young.

“As you are aware, the ministry issued a directive on the 6th of June 2014 in accordance with the provisions of Section 10 of the Sugar Production Control Act to set an Interim DOP at 82,65 percent:17.35 percent in favour of farmers,” said Dr Bimha.

“This followed a dispute between sugar cane farmers and the miller over the distribution of sugar proceeds.

“The interim DOP was a temporary arrangement pending an independent and objective review of the DOP by Ernest and Young Advisory Services, which was engaged by the Ministry. This arrangement was premised on firm undertakings by both parties committing to respect and abide by the consultant’s findings and recommendations.”

The new DOP now see the farmers receiving 77 percent of the value of the sugar produced per tonne of raw sugar cane, while the company pockets 23 percent for the milling expenses.

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