Limphasa Sugar Corporation, the country’s emerging second largest sugar producer after Illovo Sugar (Malawi) Limited, has bemoaned lack of Escom power at the new factory at Banga, Nkhata Bay.
The firm’s director Kirit Thakrar, in an e-mail response last week, said they have been waiting to be connected to the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) power grid since 2011.
Limphasa, which started in 2008, has been expanding its sugarcane fields in Limphasa Valley from three hectares in 2008 to about 850 hectares in 2012 to reach the targeted 1 500 hectares by 2014.
When fully operational, Limphasa will create jobs for people around the factory, while smallholder farmers will have opportunities to grow sugarcane and sell to the new factory.
“We are still struggling to obtain power supply from Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi for our agricultural farms and offices. The quotes have been awaited since November 2011,” said Thakrar.
He said that following the lack of commitment from the power supplier, Limphasa has had to re-design the power generation equipment for a six megawatt plant instead of the 14 megawatt that was originally planned.
“This was scaled down as there was no commitment from Escom to take the surplus power. Furthermore, the feed-in tariff for the power has not yet been set by Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera),” said Thakrar.
He said they are hoping that the issues can be resolved soon so that Limphasa can install a second turbine and increase the power generation to the planned 14 megawatts, out of which, 10 megawatts would be available for pumping into the national grid.
Thakrar said this arrangement would help alleviate any load shedding in the Northern Region.
In response, Escom public relations manager Kitty Chingota indicated that Limphasa were given three options to choose from and advise Escom of their choice so that the power supplier could produce a quotation, but they are yet to hear from them despite reminders.
But Thakrar argued that the three options that Escom are talking about were given in March 2010 which included providing a very large transformer, 200 kilovolt-amps (KVA) for which Limphasa were to pay the bulk of the cost.
“The matter was then followed up with Escom in Mzuzu, who indicated that they had provided for a large transformer, but would be able to re-quote for a smaller transformer (50kVA) but no such revised quotes have been received,” he said.
Another local sugar factory in Nkhotakota, Mtalimanja Sugar Corporation faced similar challenges last year hampering their production activities, but were connected in November and have indicated to start crushing sugar in April this year.