Sugar Technology
On-line News

January 2011

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Quiet news - it is that time of year - but a couple of intersting items :


The world price had recovered all of the loss made in mid November by the end of December and would have finished the year on a high if it weren’t for a small correction just at the end :

World Price

We wouldn’t be surprised if we had to re-scale the y axis again next month.


Last month we reported rain disruption in Queensland. By the end of December this had turned into serious flooding with thousands of people displaced. A map produced by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology shows the floods concentrated around Bundaberg which means that the cane lands feeding at least Bundaberg, Isis and Maryborough factories are likely to be under water.

Maryborough had already confirmed that the 2010 crop only crushed 574 000 tons, leaving perhaps 120 000 tons of standing cane. Flooding on top of that could be disastrous : there is national talk of the next crop being 25% down on a typical year.

Not deterred, Maryborough has announced that it will buy the second 50% of Bundaberg’s northern mills that it doesn’t already own. That means that it will then own Mulgrave, South Johnstone, Babinda and Tableland outright in addition to Maryborough itself and will be the third largest miller in Australia. Thailand’s Mitr Phol recently purchased almost 20% of Maryborough.


Regular readers will remember that Maryborough wanted to buy Tully some time ago but eventually gave up. It has now emerged that a proposal from Bunge to pay US$ 127 million for the company was unanimously accepted by the board last month. We had expected Bunge to bid for the CSR sugar division but it didn’t : is this its consolation prize?


Columbia too has been suffering major flooding with 200 000 ha reported to be under water. The USDA is reporting that the sugar industry is operating at only 30% of its normal capacity.


Noble has been a relatively low key player until recently but now it is following the Bunge model, announcing the purchase of two Brazilian factories for $950 million last month. That brings it to three operational factories in that country plus a fourth one under construction.


Last month we reported that the federal Judge involved in the transgenic beet case had ordered that the seedlings of parent plants currently in the ground be dug up, threatening the 2012 crop. Twice in December the USDA successfully appealed the order, the second appeal extending the stay of execution until the end of February : watch this space!


The government is forecasting production of 150 000 tons in 2011 but admitting that it doesn’t know what impact the recent flooding had on the crop. We have to remember that nor can it predict what effect strikes and vandalism will have.


Illovo’s project in Mali seems to have taken an important step forward last month with the AfDB approving a total of € 65 million [US$ 86 million] in loans to the project. The project, at a place called Markala, will establish a 14 000 ha irrigated cane estate on the north bank of the Niger. The mill will be rated at a nominal 8000 tcd and will have a small ethanol plant attached plus a 30 MW electrical export facility.


Californian start-up company LS9 has announced that it is building a demonstration plant in Florida to convert sugarcane directly to biodiesel. It is unclear whether it is using the sucrose or the cellulose although it seems more likely to be the former. The LS9 process uses transgenic E. coli and, looking at the diagram which came with the announcement, a ‘catalyst’. The oil floats on top of the fermentation liquor and can be siphoned off.

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