Sugar Technology
On-line News

August 2012

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A strong emphasis on Africa this month for some reason :


The world price continued to climb through July, peaking at virtually 24 ¢/lb on the 20th but then, as the rains finally stopped in Brazil, it fell back to 22.6 by the month end :

World Price

What happens next is unclear as India is talking of only just balancing the books next year and it is far from certain that Brazil will manage to harvest all of its cane before the end of crop. Some still talk of a sub 500 million ton harvest.


The EU Commission is forecasting 17.6 million tons for the crop starting next month, about 1 million tons less than last year.


Ireland, at least, is one country which doesn’t want the EU to extend its regime beyond 2015 as the pressure grows to re-establish a sugarbeet industry there. There seem to be two main groups involved, Beet Ireland and the Irish Sugar Bio Refinery Group, but it is unclear what the characteristics of each are, other than Beet Ireland favouring the central basin of Laois County and the ISBRG favouring somewhere in the southeast, perhaps Carlow where one of the Irish Sugar plants used to be.


Sudan’s $1.1 billion White Nile project was finally opened by President Bashir on July 11, the original opening in April having been postponed due to a lack of control software. It has taken 10 years to bring the project, destined to produce 450 000 t/a of crystal and 60 million litres of ethanol, to fruition.

In another report it seems that the government is taking an un-named Indian contractor to court over the delay in the project.


The packing plant at Dangote’s refinery in Lagos was damaged by fire in early July but there are conflicting accounts of how much damage was caused. The company claimed that the operations were partially disrupted and that the refinery would be operational again within a week. We have not seen any announcement that it has indeed re-started.


We now know a bit more about the plans of SCOUL, Uganda’s third and smallest sugar company, than was available for the news last month. It has secured a $23 million loan from a French finance house called Proparco for the project which is aimed at doubling capacity to 100 000 t/a by 2015 and adding a further 6 MW of electrical output in the same period. It plans to increase its 4000 ha core estate ‘substantially’, the rest of the additional cane coming from outgrowers.

Meanwhile, SCOUL’s neighbour Kakira seems to be part the way through a power station expansion. It currently produces about 14 MW, of which 6 is exported. One of the owning Madhvani family is reported as saying that it will be generating 22 MW by December this year with 10 MW exported and when a new boiler comes on line in 12 months time it should be producing 50 MW, of which nearly 30 will be exported. He made no mention of what auxiliary fuel was involved.


From Nairobi it must look like the wild west : the new factory at Trans Mara is claiming that Sony is rustling its cane and its tractors. Apparently 4 tractors and 64 tons of cane have been stolen in transit. It is likely that the growers originally contracted with Sony, perhaps with a down payment, and have now sold the same cane again. Good business if you can get it [and stay out of jail].


The Kenyan government has apparently asked a Chinese company to build a sugar beet factory in Nyandarua county which, apparently, is able to sustain beet agriculture. The bigger question will surely be whether it can do so economically.


The new MD of Mumias has said that wants to expand production by another 10% at Mumias but that he ultimately has his eye on the full country deficit of 300 000 tons by implementing the Tana valley project down on the coast. The thrust of his argument for Mumias is that the company must improve cane yields with better farming and improved varieties.

The Tana valley project is now budgeted at $400 million but the company will not start fund raising [its target is a 30 : 70 debt : equity ratio] until after next year’s elections.


Following on from last month’s article on a second sugar project at Rufiji, the Egyptian African Company for Investment and Development [to give it its full title] says that the project will cost $200 million and will be ready in ‘October 2014’. It also claims that the AfDB is interested in the project.


Another sugar and ethanol project has been announced for Malanje province in Angola, the same province that the Brazilian contractor Odebrecht is reportedly developing a project. The first crop is said to start in October 2013, the company already having an area of 1 000 ha [although it is not clear how much of that is currently under cane]. The total project budget is only $110 million, to be spent between now and 2017.


Pakistan, which already has about 2,500 ha under sugar beet each year, is contemplating increasing that figure substantially and is even talking of growing the crop in the southern province of Sindh. One of the attractions is that it would be harvested during the cane off-crop but, as usual, there is the perpetual need for a separate front end at the factory.


Sugar Australia closed its Racecourse refinery at Mackay for a while last month because there was no bagasse to burn due to the crop being washed out. In the end it did decide to re-start burning coal even though it was costing more as a fuel and the company was not earning carbon credits.


It looks as if the USDA will get its way with transgenic beet : it published a ‘determination of non-regulated status’ for ‘Roundup Ready’ beet on July 19. That follows the publication of two separate assessments in June, both saying that there is no plant pest risk from RR beet, and a period of public consultation. You can read the full press release on the internet.


Orange rust, a fungal disease of sugarcane has been identified in two Louisiana locations, just five years after it was first identified in Florida. The AgCenter at LSU is hoping that the cold conditions in LA may stop the fungus from becoming a major problem but only time will tell.


One has to question where Guysuco is headed : it is reported that it only produced 70 000 tons in the first of the two crops [Guyana being equatorial] when the budget was 101 000 tons. Last year the company produced about 106 000 tons in the first crop and 237 000 for the full year. If the same ratio applies this year then output for the year will only be 166 000. ASR must be contemplating the fate of its Thames refinery.


Maple gas has confirmed that it is now running its ethanol plant on the River Chira in the far north of Peru. The 5000 tcd project is reported to have cost $275 million. Its rated capacities are 133 million litres of ethanol and 37 MW, of which about 17 will be exported to the grid.


iDiverse, a biotechnology company, has identified a gene in yeasts which reduces the production of ethanol under stressful conditions. It believes that by manipulating the gene it will be able to increase the yield of ethanol by 34% but it is unclear whether it means true yield [surely stoichiometrically impossible?] or 34% more concentration and hence reduced energy costs and less effluent.

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