ETHANOL-PRODUCING giant Green Fuel’s operations have been heavily affected by the incessant rains pounding the whole country resulting in the suspension of sugar cane harvesting at Chisumbanje estates.
Sources at Green Fuel this week told the Zimbabwe Independent that due to the rains, harvesting is currently confined to the company’s other estates in Chipangayi in the Middle Sabi, a development which has also seen workers going without salaries from January.
“The workers were called to a meeting by the human resources department which advised them that the company was not in a position to pay them their January salaries,” said a source, adding that “they were advised that they would only be getting their salaries in March once the situation in the fields has improved to allow for harvesting.”
Sources said the contract workers constitute the bulk of Green Fuel employees and the suspension of their wages flies in the face of the company’s commitment to uplifting the livelihoods of the local community.
“What was particularly galling is that the workers were only informed when their wages were due and management was so heartless as to tell those who were not happy with the decision to quit.”
The contract workers reportedly operate on verbal rather than written contracts.
At the time of going to print, Green Fuel spokesperson Lilian Muungani had not responded to emailed questions that she requested on Wednesday morning.
The heavy rains that have caused serious flooding and displacement of urban and rural communities countrywide have also affected the Chisumbanje region which has clay soils that clog quickly and become impermeable in wet conditions.
“Harvesting cannot take place due to Chisumbanje’s water-logged clay soils but it is hoped the situation will improve by March,” said a company source.
“In the meantime the cane for processing is coming in from our estates at Chipangayi in the Middle Sabi.”
The mandatory blending of ethanol with petrol which commenced last year has been a controversial issue with fingers being pointed at government for creating a monopoly in the energy sector for the benefit of Green Fuel.
Motorists also claim the fuel is expensive and damages their vehicles. But the company and government have both defended the policy saying it will reduce the country’s fuel bill, create employment and reduce harmful carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
Last month government was forced to beat a hasty retreat from the compulsory blending of petroleum with 15% ethanol, reducing the amount to 10% ethanol claiming rains had affected the harvesting of cane for ethanol production in Chisumbanje.
Green Fuel’s woes at Chisumbanje have opened a window of opportunity for Triangle Limited to resume ethanol production after they also received a licence from the energy ministry to blend fuel to help meet the country’s requirements.