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Not too many newsworthy items this month so not too much to read ....
Regrettably another victim of the Savannah explosion died in hospital last month, bringing the death toll to 13.
OSHA UNDER FIRE
Following the Savannah explosion, the US Congress has started to introduce legislation which would force the Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] to put mandatory measures regulating combustible industrial dusts in place, the current National Fire Protection Association guidelines being voluntary.
OSHA did flex its muscles at Imperial’s Gramercy refinery – the sister plant to Savannah – however, ordering the shut down of what sound like the icing sugar milling station because of excessive dust levels.
In the December news we – correctly – reported that Matra Cukor had announced the closure of its Szolnok factory but would keep Szerencs operating. It has, apparently, changed its mind and has announced the closure of Szerencs after all. It will continue as a purely trading company, selling imported sugar under its own brand name.
DANISCO SELLS, TEREOS BUYS?
Danisco, the Danish ‘ingredients group’ as it now likes to be called, has indicated that it wants to sell its sugar division and has been in contact with several potential bidders. However, the company is also considering a floatation of the division. Its own shares rose nearly 7% on the announcement.
Tereos, the privately owned French sugar company that we used to know as Beghin Say, has expressed an interest in buying Danisco sugar. In making the announcement it also flagged the possibility of an IPO as a means of raising some of the necessary finance. Last year it raised nearly $400 million by floating its Brazilian company, Guarani, in Sao Paulo.
Reports of Morocco’s Cosumar sugar company’s AGM have given a current insight into that country’s sugar industry. Three quarters of the 450 000 t/a of local sugar still comes from beet, the rest from cane. The deficit is made up with 650 to 700 000 tons of imports each year, mainly raws for local refining. Cosumar has purchased four underperforming public sector sugar factories and is investing over $200 million to push up its production. The target is to reach 700 000 tons annually but with an annual growth of 20 000 tons it doesn’t see it achieving much more than 50% of local demand.
Uganda’s Madhvani group which owns Rwanda’s only sugar factory at Kabuye, has promised to invest $16 to 20 million although not all of it will be on the sugar sector. The factory currently has a capacity of 16 000 t/a.
The government in India is hinting that it will allow sugar mills to sell 2 million tons of sugar on the normally highly regulated local market. What is puzzling is that the country is, as regular readers will know, struggling with a substantial over-supply but the price of sugar is rising in that market.
Indonesia, once an important sugar exporter, has announced that it has issued import permits for over 900 000 tons of raw sugar in the current year.
Following last month’s news item about floods in Mackay, it seems that the excessive rainfall has been much more widespread and has seriously affected the cane harvest. Flooding has been reported from Cairns in the north to Rockhampton, some 900 km south of Cairns and well south of Mackay. Canegrowers, the farmers organisation, is warning of as much as a 20% drop in production.
One of the impacts of the floods has been an upsurge in smut reports – even in smut resistant varieties like the newly introduced Q100. One optimistic scientist was upbeat however, being quoted as saying "Once the industry gets to 100 per cent resistant varieties there should not be further loss.". Brave man!
BRAZIL NEARLY READY WITH TRANSGENIC CANE
Brazilian companies working on transgenic sugarcane are expecting regulatory approval soon and forecast the first commercial plantings in 2013/4. The emphases of the research programme seem to be on drought resistance and improved sucrose yield as well as the usual ‘Roundup Ready’ approach. Part of the expectation seems to stem from an argument that half the cane is not used for food use and the sugar produced from the other half is free of any DNA – or indeed other protein.
NEW TWIST ON BIOFUELS
A US research company has signed a joint development agreement with Royal Dutch Shell to commercialise its process to make hydrocarbons from carbohydrate sugars. All that the company will say is that it is using catalysts to convert sugars into hydrocarbon molecules similar to those produced at petroleum refineries. The resulting ‘biogasoline’ will have a higher energy content than ethanol and could deliver better fuel efficiency.
DANGOTE MAKES THE RICH LIST
Aliko Dangote, the flamboyant owner of – among many other things – the large sugar refinery in Lagos, has been listed by Forbes magazine on its annual Rich List. Admittedly only ranked 334th, Forbes reckons Aliko is worth $3.3 billion having floated his refinery on the local stock exchange last year.