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New Projects and biotechnology for this month ....
Tate & Lyle has sold its Canadian refiner, Redpath, to ASR [Domino as was] - the refining company controlled by Florida Crystals. The price is Can$299 million and the deal is subject to regulatory approval. It is known that both Cargill and ED+F Man also submitted bids but no details are available.
The EU Commission has announced that it intends to reduce production quotas by at least 2 million tons of sugar [~12% of the total] in 2007/8 to avoid a ‘significant surplus’. It is clear that the commission wants to encourage more companies to take the generously endowed exit route from the industry.
TRINIDAD TO CLOSE SUGAR INDUSTRY.
The Trinidadian minister of agriculture has announced the closure of the sugar industry at the end of the 2007 crop. Interestingly, the move seems to be supported by the farmers who are looking for a ‘soft landing’. The crop has dropped from 1.3 million tons in 2003 to just 400 000tons expected in the coming crop. Add to that the much reduced EU quota price and it seems to be the only logical solution.
The government of Jamaica has announced that five entities have pre-qualified for and have been invited to tender for the privatisation of SCJ. Two of them are from the island, the other three being from Brazil, India and the USA. Meanwhile, the crop itself is being threatened [dare one say ‘as usual’?] by illicit burning of cane to force an early harvest [and hence cash flow to the farmer].
Ethiopia is planning a major new industry at Tendaho, some 400 km north east of Addis. That places it much closer to the coast and the port of Djibouti than the other factories : ideal for exports. The estate is said to be 64 000 ha in extent and is to produce 600 000 tons per annum. The equipment will almost certainly be Indian after a bilateral agreement for India to lend Ethiopia US$ 640 million.
ZSR [RSR as was] is talking of shutting down as it is squeezed between the rsing cost of refining and the government limit on the selling price of sugar. Whether a recent 117% increase in that price makes any difference remains to be seen. It is pointless converting the price into any hard currency for comparison as the exchange rate is totally artificial in this collapsing economy.
TH IN MOÇAMBIQUE
Tongaat Hulett has now released more details of its expansion plans in Moçambique that we brought to you last October.
At Xinavane it has agreed to become the majority shareholder with the government holding only 12% compared to its current 51%. That is presumable a result of dilution as ZAR 1 163 million is invested to triple the output there by 2009. It is already the majority shareholder at Mafambisse. The company was quite open about the driving force for the expansion : the EU’s EBA policy which will give Moçambique, as one of the LDC’s, unlimited free access to Europe at enhanced prices. It expects to produce sugar in Moçambique at only 8.5 US¢/lb.
SUGAR ESTATE FOR CAPRIVI STRIP?
The government of Namibia is currently again reviewing a proposal for a 15 000 ha sugar estate at Liambezi in the Caprivi strip. As always the problem will be that the area – in the bulge at the eastern end of the strip – is terribly important to the ecology of the region.
TANA DELTA RIVER PROJECT
The project to establish a sugar cane industry in Kenya’s Tana river took another step forward with the publishing of the first yield estimates by the river authority. Most of the varieties tested were well above the 100 t/ha level but one was identified as particularly good : KEN 82-808 produced 125 t/ha at 11.44% sucrose or 14.3 ts/ha.
Indonesia has accepted that there will be a delay in the start of its crop from April to May as a result of a drought. It is therefore now importing 250 000 tons instead of the original expectation of 200 000 tons.
BRAZIL GOES TRANSGENIC
Brazil’s bio-safety commission has given approval to CTC, the Centre for Cane Technology, to start field trials of transgenic cane. Planting of three varieties will start as soon as the rains cease. Each has been selected for exhibiting a sucrose content at least 15% higher than the typical content in Brazil. CTC has set a target of 2010 for the first commercial growing of its transgenic cane.
Meanwhile the Indian government is also interested in the technology and has declared that it will open discussions with Brazil to share in it in some way.
Meanwhile, a small start-up company in California has set out a programme to modify yeast to make a fuel more akin to gasoline, diesel fuel or [believe it or not] jet fuel. Probably another case of ‘watch this space’ but you may have to watch for a long time.
AND FINALLY ….
Following in the tradition of the New Scientist, we have to bring you a tail piece from Thailand – where a small herd of elephants is terrorising the cane transport fleet in order to get at the sweet canes. The herd stands in the road to force the trucks to stop. Apparently, if they cannot get what they want, they head but the truck instead.