Sugarcane Growers Association of Malawi (Sugam) says sugarcane value chains are being underutilised to benefit the nation in a positive way.
Sugam president Frighton Njolomole said this in an interview on the sidelines of the fourth Sugam annual general meeting (AGM) held on Friday in Salima to take stock of the association’s operations for the past year.
He said it remains a loss because people regard sugarcane as merely for sugar production, but it also produces ethanol, methylated spirit, electricity, manure and many more products that if well maximised can boost economic growth.
Njolomole said countries such as Brazil depend on sugarcane for the large-scale production of ethanol, among others, that contributes largely to the economy.
He said: “We are failing to maximise sugarcane value chains, we need strategies to invite investors to produce, for instance, more ethanol to be used as flexi motor vehicle fuel with 70 percent ethanol and 30 percent petrol and save on fuel imports.
“We can also generate electricity that can be channelled into the national grid and help solve electricity challenges. These are among economic benefits from sugarcane that are largely neglected in Malawi.”
Njolomole said despite sugar being the second major foreign exchange earner after tobacco, sugarcane as a crop is not legally protected just like tobacco which has an Act and well regulated with a oversight authority.
He called on government to consider fast-tracking the crafting of the Sugar Bill to legally guide investment, production and marketing of the crop in the country.
Njolomole said companies are exploiting sugarcane farmers because there is no law that governs the sugar sector.
On his part, Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe said government was working on the Sugar Bill to ensure the sector was sanitised for the benefit of players in the industry and the economy.
Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) chief executive officer Jacob Nyirongo commended Sugam for the AGM, saying it shows good governance and pledged support to ensure a common voice to promote the sugar industry.
He said FUM is available to support sugar cane growers to ensure that they speak out on issues that affect them, including linking them to suppliers of inputs offered on better conditions.
“We work with sugar cane growers on issues such as agribusiness and market access,” he said. n