Sugar Technology
On-line News

May 2008

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A much better month than April :


Imperial has decided to rebuild its Port Wentworth refinery after it was severely damaged in the early February dust explosion. Three quarters of the workforce is already back on site clearing up and melting out following the disaster. The aim is to start production before the end of 2008 and to have a new packing plant operational by spring 2009.

On an optimistic note, several of the people severely burnt at the time have now been released from hospital and no more deaths have been reported. Nonetheless six remain hospitalised, three still report as critical.


In our March news report we commented that the sugar price could not sustain the giddy heights of 15 ¢/# seen at the end of February … and now it is back to 11 to 13 ¢/# range. However, Morgan Stanley [admittedly not the best known name in sugar trading] are predicting that it could go to 28 to 30 ¢/# based on Brazil diverting more sucrose to ethanol and India diverting more land to protein crops like wheat and, presumably, rice.


Last December we described the data for the Brazilian crop as ‘mind boggling’. They now seem mundane compared to the latest predictions for this crop : cane production is forecast to rise from last year’s 475 million tons to between 558 and 580 million tons as a result of more planting, improved rains and better technology. [Remember that that is cane for processing to sugar and ethanol. If the cane for rum and animal feed is counted the forecast rises to between 607 to 631 million tons.]

The result of the increase is that sugar production is predicted to be between 34 and 35 million tons [31.3 million tons last year] and ethanol production is predicted to be between 26.5 to 27.5 billion litres [23 billion litres last year].


With commissioning still under way at its Ain Sokhna refinery on the Red Sea, Savola has announced that it will invest in a beet factory in Egypt which will be able to operate as a refinery out of campaign. What is confusing is that the reported announcement implies that the port refinery – not exactly close to the Nile delta beet fields – will also process beet.


A local investor has announced a new 600 000 t/a refinery to be set up in the ‘Industrial City of Abu Dhabi’. It is reported that expansion capacity to 850 000 t/a will be designed in.


A proposal put forward by Jamal Al Ghurair to establish a sugar refinery in India [presumably to refine – or at least ‘polish’ – Indian sugar before export] has been rejected by the government’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board.


Let’s not forget that molasses is also dangerous : a molasses tank explosion in Pakistan killed seven people and injured 14 others in mid April.


A new estate has been announced in South Sumatra but somehow the numbers don’t seem to add up : it is reported to be a 20 000 ha estate but annual production will only be 75 000 tons. The cost is reported to be US$ 220 million which is nearly $3 000 per ton of capacity.

The country is expected to consume 4.85 million tons of sugar this year but only about 2.7 of that will be locally produced. Most of the balance [1.8 million] will be refined in Indonesia, the rest – presumably industrial grade whites – being imported. At the end of the month the Government threatened to increase the duty on sugar by 50% to 6 US¢/kg but it is unclear if that is for raws or whites or both.


Forestry seems to be in the ascendancy in Queensland : 10 000 tons of cane were ripped out in Tulley’s cane area – just 6 weeks before the start of crop. The land has been purchased by a forestry company and they claimed that they needed to plant trees before the end of June ‘to meet investor obligations’.


Dangote has announced another expansion of the Apapa [Lagos] refinery from 1.4 to 2.5 million tons per annum. Quite how that is going to be achieved on such a congested site is difficult to see even if the raws are VVHP from Brazil.


The company has also announced that it is ‘aggressively pursuing’ the establishment of a refinery in Algeria to start melting in 2009. There has long been talk of a second refinery in Algeria, to be built in the western port of Oran.


Brazilian company Constran has announced a project to develop a 27 000 ha sugarcane estate to produce 150 million litres of ethanol for export to Sweden. As, to the best of our knowledge, all previous attempts at commercial cane production in Ghana have failed for agronomic reasons it is not clear how this one will succeed.


ZSC had a bad time last year : producing only 233 000 tons compared to 245 in 2006 and a budget of 255. The problem seems to have been early rains but the impact was on the production of industrial quality sugar which is now impacting on the local brewery and soft drink manufacturers. In addition we understand that the 2008 crop hasn’t started yet and it is already the end of April. It is unclear if the delayed start is due to the current expansion project or not.


Cuba may be taking its first steps towards modernising now that Fidel has stepped down but nature isn’t helping : yet again the island is reporting that rains have disrupted the harvest and therefore that the crop is expected to be below budget.


Italian beet cooperative Co.Pro.B, based near Bologna, and biotechnology company Bio-On have announced that they will start commercial production of polyhdroxyalkanoate [PHA] next year. The companies are claiming that the plastic [said to be biodegradable in only 10 days when submerged in water at room temperature] will be made by a patented process with low energy demand.


We reported back in February 07 that Californian start-up biotech company Amyris wanted to develop biodiesel and biojetfuel – and seems to be making progress. It has signed a deal with a pair of Brazilian companies to be producing those fuels by 2010.

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