BY LORRAINE NDEBELE ZIMBABWE’S largest sugar producer says a long-drawn tenure crisis was continuing to hold back the roll out of a key project in the country’s vast south eastern sugar estates.
The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed Hippo Valley said this week, resumption of its Project Kilimanjaro, a massive project that is set to transform the industry, would only be done once clarity on land tenure was secured, which is key to unlocking funding.
About 700 hectares within Project Kilimanjaro have been parcelled out to new farmers as part of the ongoing empowerment initiatives by Triangle Limited and Hippo Valley Estates Limited, the biggest firms with interests in the region.
But the project has been stalled by the government’s failure to give land tenure.
As such key funders have chickened out of the project.
In a trading update for the third quarter ended December 31, 2021, Hippo chairperson Canaan Dube confirmed the project is on hold.
“As previously reported, the resumption of Project Kilimanjaro, a 4 000 hectare new cane project being developed in partnership with sister company Triangle Ltd, awaits clarity on land tenure which is necessary to conclude funding arrangements with financial institutions,” Dube said.
“Seven hundred ha of the Kilimanjaro Project has been set aside and allocated to new farmers by the government as part of the ongoing empowerment initiatives by Triangle Limited and Hippo Valley Estates Limited. Farmers have already benefited from the proceeds of the 562 ha of sugarcane planted in prior years on the back of impressive yields achieved in the past season,” he added.
The project was envisaged to increase sugar production for both local and export demands.
Hippo Valley’s share of total industry sugar sales volume of 317 155 tonnes for the nine months under review was 53,59%, Dube added.
This figure was 49,95% during the comparable period in 2020.
The total industry sugar sales into the domestic market for the period, at 285 548 tonnes, were 10% above the same period in prior year as a result of strong local demand and improved supply.
Dube said following the industry’s reduced Common Market for East and Southern Africa quota allocation for the year into Kenya, export sales volumes slowed by 68% to 31 607 tonnes compared to 97 620 tonnes during the comparable period in 2020.
The country’s annual export quota to the United States remains secure and fully satisfied.
‘Cane deliveries from the company’s plantations (miller-cum planter) were 14% below the same period in prior year due to a combination of a 3% reduction in area that was available for harvest and 11% drop in cane yields which was due to the insistent cloud cover during the past rainfall season, which constrained cane growth during the peak growing period,” Dube said.
“The industry’s major water supply dams are once again reaching maximum capacity ensuring adequate irrigation water cover for at least three seasons at normal water duty. Therefore this provides the necessary assurance to stimulate both vertical and horizontal sugarcane growth by existing and new players to the industry which will maximise the existing milling capacity, improving the nation’s cost competitiveness in the region and globally,” Dube said.