NCC unveils sugar competitiveness report to Chiredzi farmers
CHIREDZI – Senior officials from the National Competitive Commission (NCC) were in Chiredzi on Monday where they unveiled the recently launched Sugar Value Chain Analysis Report.
Key recommendations made by the report for better performance of the industry include the need to repeal the 1964 Sugar Act, need to bring in more milling and processing companies, establishment of the Sugar Competitiveness Lab, replace offer letters with 99-year-land leases, extend command agriculture benefits to small-holder farmers and mechanization of the sugar industry.
The meeting held at a Chiredzi Hotel was attended by key stakeholders including financial institutions, seven farmers’ associations in Chiredzi, utility providers like Zinwa and Zesa and officials from Tongaat Hulett.
Government declared the sugar industry a strategic industry early last year and this culminated in a research by the NCC starting around July 2021. There were nine experts involved in the research from NCC’s domestic competitiveness and international competitiveness departments which resulted in the report. The research dwelt mainly on domestic and international competitiveness of the sugar industry.
The report which was launched in Harare on February 3, 2022 was presented at the Chiredzi workshop in two parts by Douglas Muzimba, the NCC Chief Economist responsible for International Competitiveness and Dumisani Sibanda who is the Chief Economist for Domestic Competitiveness.
Muzimba said the sugar industry was declared strategic by Government because of its spillover effect in many other industries i.e.; food and beverages, pharmaceuticals and fuels. The industry is also one of the priority value chain sectors under NDS1.
The report expressed concern with Tongaat Hulett’s monopoly as the only sugar miller in the country with two mills. A comparison was made between Zimbabwe and Egypt where the latter has 15 mills.
Monopolistic situations have their problems, according to the report and these include the long distance of up to 65km that some farmers have to transport their cane. The report noted that sugarcane needs to be crashed at most two hours after harvest so that there is no significant loss in weight but in the case of Chiredzi some farmers wait two weeks with harvested sugarcane.
The report noted that the sugarcane seed comes from South Africa and sometimes conditions here are not suitable hence lower harvests. The Zimbabwean famer also pays royalty for the seed to SA thereby pushing up the cost of production.
The report also noted that the infrastructure for the industry is archaic, production remains physical rather than mechanical. The yield by out growers remains at a measly 66 tonnes per hectare compared to the production by Tongaaat which stands at 100 tonnes per hectare.
Zimbabwe sugar industry is also still burning sugarcane as a way of getting rid of leaves during harvest and the report says this is backward compared to other countries where plants shed leaves naturally at the time of harvest. The burning process leaves high carbon footprint on sugar which will in future make the product unattractive internationally.
Another key observation is that the sugar industry under the 1964 Sugar Act falls under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and this has seen farmers being excluded from Government programmes such as Command Agriculture.
This has been forcing small out grower farmers to borrow short term loans from banks at as much as 40% interest thereby crippling growth of the sector.
Some of report’s key recommendations include the call for the repeal of the Sugar Act so that the grower industry falls under Agriculture and farmers benefit from Government subsidy schemes. It also called on the production of sugarcane seeds locally through the Sugarcane Associations Experiment Station.
The report called for 99-year-land leases instead of offer letters that do not give farmers security of tenure hence the willingness to pour in investments.
The industry has already established the Sugar Competitiveness Lab (SCL) chaired by Marvelous Sibanda who has over 25 years’ experience in sugarcane. SCL is there to enhance stakeholder engagement particularly on issues to do with the findings of the report.https://masvingomirror.com