Salima Sugar Company has resumed production after the arrival of experts from India who were affected by the Covid-19 travel restrictions, officials have confirmed.
The factory was supposed to start sugar production in April but delayed because the experts from India are the only ones with expertise to operate the machinery.
However, they could not travel to Malawi after the December-March off season holiday due to travel restrictions because of the global pandemic.
In a written response, Greenbelt Authority (GBA) acting chief executive officer Amon Mluwira, under whose responsibility the Salima Sugar Company falls, said they started sugar crashing on July 5 and will run up to mid-November 2020.
He said the effect of the delay will be minimal because most of the sugarcane is within the estate and transportation to factory will also be easier.
Said Mluwira: “We have plans to ensure that production should not be disrupted to catch up with time amid Covid-19 pandemic.
“Staff will be working on shifts to ensure that work-flow is not disrupted.”
He said the company is planning to produce 25 000 metric tonnes (MT) of sugar this year and may crush about 160 000MT of sugarcane to achieve the target.
Sugarcane Growers Association of Malawi executive secretary Geoffrey Nkata said the delay to resume production is a loss to farmers as it will cost them to maintain sugarcane fields.
He said: “It is a concern to us because this means a loss on return on investment and great impact on livelihoods in the current Covid-19 pandemic situation.
“This will also affect preparation for next season because farmers will be delayed further on preparing their fields.”
Earlier, Ministry of Trade said it was high time that Malawians took charge of the factory’s operations, arguing that there is available expertise in the country.
The company has 3 500 employees with 200 on permanent employment while the rest are seasonal workers.
It grows its own sugarcane as well as procures cane from about 250 small-scale sugarcane growers.
Salima Sugar Company has recently become a competitor to Illovo Sugar (Malawi) plc which has been a monopoly for the past decades.
Sugar is the third major export crop after tobacco and tea. n