Salima Sugar Company Limited is expected to invest $55 million (about K40 billion) in the second phase of the project to expand plots for growing saugarcane and houses for 2 000 employees.
The Malawi Government has 40 percent stake in the $90 million (about K64 billion) factory with the remaining shareholding held by two investors.
So far, the sugar processing factory is ready and testing may be done during the first week of July. The sugar cane has been bought from farmers in Dwangwa, Nkhotakota.
Speaking in an interview on Wednesday when Chinese investors visited the factory, chairperson Shirieesh Betgiri said everything is on schedule and they are planning to produce 15 000 tonnes of sugar this year.
“We have already spent $40 million [K29 billion] but we plan to spend another $55 million to build housing colonies and expand the farm to grow more sugarcane and maize. If all goes according to plan, we will start testing the machine during the first week of July using sugarcane from Dwangwa because ours will take two to three years to mature,” he said.
Betgiri said from the initial 15 000 tonnes output of sugar in the first year, they plan to increase the volume up to a maximum of 90 000 tonnes in the next few years.
He said they will be selling sugar molasses to Ethanol Company (EthCO) in Dwangwa while the sugar will be sold locally, but plans are there to find export markets.
Apart from growing sugarcane, Betgiri said the company will also be growing maize.
This year, the company planted maize on 84 hectares and they are expected to harvest four tonnes (4 000 kilogrammes) per hectare.
He said: We plan to be selling the maize to Admarc [Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation] and NFRA [National Food Reserve Agency] and we are committed to growing between 4 000 and 5000 tonnes per year to be sold to the two institutions.
The factory’s manager Ketan Patel said they plan to have a training centre at the factory for locals to enable them operate the machines with ease.
Currently, the factory has 125 employees from India who are working closely with the locals to impart skills.
Speaking on behalf of the investors, director general for Anhui Province Zhou Shiqi said Malawi has huge potential in agriculture because of the availability of water from Lake Malawi.
He said: “We are impressed with what we have seen here in Salima and we will be interested to invest in this country. The good thing is that we have the technical expertise, resources and skilled workforce so setting up plantations will not be difficult. However, a decision will be made once we go back to China but we will definitely be back.”.
Malawi Investment Trade Centre (Mitc) director of investment promotion and facilitation Joshua Nthakomwa said the sugar factory will create jobs but there is need for more investors in the agriculture sector.
“These investors have been impressed with what is happening here in Salima at Malawi Mangoes and the Sugar Factory and they have told us that we are sitting on gold.
“It is pleasing that they have assured us that they will be back after evaluating their tour,” he said.
The sugar cane around the factory will be grown by smallholder farmers and the company itself.
It is expected that once fully operational, prices of sugar of the local market will go down.
Currently, llovo Sugar (Malawi) Limited is the only company that manufactures sugar in Malawi.