ZIMBABWE – South Africa based sugar producer, Tongaat Hulett, will be investing US$300 million in a project that seeks to expand its processing capacity in Zimbabwe.

The US$300 million project will see the company increase its sugar production by 50 000 tonnes and lift its export earnings by US$18 million while creating 2 000 direct and indirect jobs within the next two years, reports the Herald.

Under the project, Tongaat will invest in turning a total of 4 000 hectares of virgin land into cane fields – whose works commenced in April this year.

Dubbed the Kilimanjaro Project, it is due for completion in September 2020 upon which the developed cane fields will be handed over to Government for allocation to indigenous out growers as part of a drive to empower locals.

Tongaat executive in charge of the project, Mr Ushe Chinhuru said, “A total of 1 825 hectares has been bush-cleared to date since project commencement on 3 April 2019.

“Ripping, discing, construction of storage dams, canals and associated infrastructure are in progress with the first planting expected to commence in August 2019.”

Mr Chinhuru noted that new cane fields were being developed at Hippo Valley and Triangle Estates adding that the project is expected to further lure investment to the Lowveld through the opening up of agriculture support industries, among other entities.

“On completion the project will be handed over to Government. An additional 50 000 tonnes of sugar per annum will be produced.

“Commercial banks are funding the project on a full cost recovery basis. Some 2 000 direct jobs will be created by the project and downstream activities, increased exports to generate at least US$18 million in foreign currency for the country.

“Other economic benefits include investment opportunities for related industries that include suppliers of agro-inputs, transport services, among others,” said Mr Chinhuru.

This year, the company is expecting to produce 500 000 tonnes of sugar and the additional output from the project will take its production to 550 000 tonnes.

The investment is also expected to bridge the cane supply gap of its two mills at Hippo Valley and Triangle Estates with an installed capacity of 600 000 tonnes.

The country is self-sufficient in sugar, and requires about 300 000 tonnes for domestic consumption leaving the surplus for export.

In terms of exports earning, the country is generating US$65 million which is expected to rise to about $83 million when the project starts operating at full throttle.

There have also been calls for Government to protect the local sugar industry by stopping imports as the country can produce enough for domestic consumption and the export market to rake in the much-needed hard currency.