Salima Sugar Company, which will start testing its equipment mid this month, has set aside K1.5 billion ($2 080 443) to buy sugar cane from smallholder farmers in Dwangwa, Nkhotakota.
The decision to buy sugar cane from Dwangwa, some kilometres away from the factory, was made because the factory’s sugar cane will take about three years to harvest.
The company’s chief executive officer Shirieesh Betgiri said most of the ground work to commission the machines has been done and 125 workers from India are already in the country.
“This [the testing of the machine] will be a full trial where we will be filling sugar cane in the machines to produce sugar. We intend to buy 60 000 tonnes of sugar cane for the three-month period that we will operate this year,” he said.
The Salima factory has brought excitement among sugar consumers in the country as they expect it to bring competition to the sole sugar manufacturer Malawi Stock Exchange (MSE)-listed Illovo Sugar (Malawi) Limited.
Shirieesh said the company will create jobs to 300 people with half being permanent employees and the others seasonal.
He said about 800 seasonal jobs will be created for cutters and loaders in the sugar fields where the company will buy sugar cane.
Shirieesh said: “This year, we have planned to run the factory from July to September while next year, we will run the factory from May to August because this business is seasonal.
“Once we have our own sugar cane ready in three years, we will be operating for nine months, more or less how Illovo Sugar [Malawi] Limited operates.”
One of the company’s directors, Prashant Sharma, said they have not only created business opportunities for sugar cane growers in Nkhotakota but also transporters.
He said trucks have already been hired to transport sugar cane from Dwangwa to Salima.
“We have already hired over 70 trucks, and next year, we may need more because we will operate for a longer period. This year, we expect to produce between 10 000 and 15 000 tonnes of sugar and it will be sold both locally and abroad,” he said.
Apart from producing sugar, the company also intends to produce 4 000 tonnes of maize next year which will be sold to National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) and Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc).