Salima Sugar Factory says Covid-19 has delayed its production by two months, a situation which the company feared could negatively affect planned output for the season.
One of the company’s directors, Bruhat Betgiri, said this during a media tour of the sugar factory and sugar cane fields on Saturday.
He said the factory was supposed to start crushing sugar on May 1, but it only started production on June 29.
Betgiri said: “We may extend our crushing season by some more days. There has been some loss but we will recover. We are expecting to produce more than 20 000 metric tonnes of sugar.
“This will contribute to the country’s economy because there is still high demand for sugar as you know it is very costly to import sugar in Malawi, so it is the best to have home grown sugar.”
He said that having two sugar producing companies in the country, it creates competition which works for the good of the consumers and to falling prices of sugar.
The factory relies on Indiaan expatriate technicians for its operations. However, a majority of them tested Covid-19 positive upon arrival earlier this year.
The company management was ordered to stop operations until the Covid-19 situation was contained.
Betgiri said that the factory plans to establish a distillery for processing molasses into ethanol as well as to venture into production of bagasse (sugarcane residues) briquettes as a replacement for charcoal.
For this season, he said the company will buy 30 000 tonnes of sugarcane from outgrowers while the company will crush its own 170 000 metric tonnes.
In an interview on Sunday, Sugarcane Outgrowers representative Noel Mateyo said the delayed commencement of operations of the factory is a loss to farmers.
He said: “The company has committed to buy 30 000 metric tonnes of sugarcane from us as outgrowers, out of the 60 000 metric tonnes that we have. This means farmers will lose 30 000 metric tonnes this season that will dry up or carried over to the next season”.
Mateyo said sugar cane outgrowers last year, failed to sell 14 000 metric tonnes of sugar cane to the company due to time constraints.
He called on the government to intervene to ensure the company buys all sugar cane to mitigate farmer losses.
The company, which has an investment $90 million (about K72 billion), is a public private partnership between Indian investors, owning 60 percent, and Malawi Government with 40 percent and operates under the Green Belt Authority.