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Florida and USSC dominates this month ...
There were all sorts of twists in the USSC story last month as the entire shape of the deal, motivated by Everglades restoration, changed.
The new terms include a lease-back of the land for $50 per acre per year, for a period covering seven crop cycles.
BRITISH SUGAR WINS EBRO PULEVA
ABF, owner of British Sugar, has reached agreement in principle to buy the sugar division of Ebro Puleva, the Spanish food conglomerate. The agreed price is €385m [$500 million] some eight times the 2007 earnings but ABF shareholders don’t seem to happy with the share price losing 5% on the news.
Tereos, the French sugar company, has confirmed the much repeated rumour that it will close its 600 t/d RSO Nantes refinery next year. That will leave France with just the St Louis refinery in Marseille, a company owned by Sudzucker.
EU LARGEST IMPORTER
The EU is predicted to become the world’s largest sugar importer in the current year, according to ISO, importing over 1 million tons more than Russia. The switch seems to result from a combination of the change in the EU sugar regime and Russia’s inability to finance the purchase of raws in the current economic climate.
The ISO estimate of 4.25 million tons is more or less in agreement with that of the USDA figure of 4 million tons released in its recent half year report. That shows that the EU is close to achieving its 6 million ton reduction target. A copy of the full report is available on this web domain.
We reported in June that the Tendaho project was somehow delayed. It now turns out that the problem is an internal Indian squabble between two of the country’s contractors Utam and Walchand. The result is that the Indian Exim Bank has suspended the project, leaving the Ethiopians without finance, at least for now.
Kenya is starting out on the privatisation road again [it privatised Mumias about four years ago]. This time it seems driven by the desire to be rid of the rump of the industry by the time that the COMESA sugar agreement comes into force and the country is flooded with cheap sugar from the Sudan and Ethiopia. Sony, Nzoia and Muhoroni are reported to be the first three factories planned to be privatised but none perform well and Muhoroni has been in receivership for many years while Nzoia has debts in excess of $300 million.
The Savannah refinery, devastated by the February explosion that killed 14 people in total, has started production again, albeit only liquid sugar – presumably from melting whites. However, the refinery has received its first new delivery of raw sugar and is expected to start melting in early 2009.
Meanwhile the legal wrangles over the incident continue. This month’s new has been dominated by a story about a lawyer for the families of some of the deceased wanting to subpoena a Georgia Senator who, he believes may have tried to distort the course of justice on behalf of the company.
The sale of JSC to Infinity Bio-Energy [reported here several times here during the year] still seems nowhere near completion even though it was scheduled for the end of September when, importantly, the workers were promised their redundancy payments. The Government is keeping them placated for now by pointing out that it is EU money which will be paying them.
The purchase of St Madeleine by a farmers cooperative, reported here in October, seems to have hit a snag which is somehow related to funding because the sale agreement specifically excludes the assets being used as collateral for further funding : watch this space.
SKELDON II PRODUCES FIRST SUGAR
Following last month’s item about the start of commissioning, the new Skeldon II factory produced its first sugar early in November, albeit with a terrible yield : the Chinese contractor report that 30 tons of A sugar were made from 50 m³ of massecuite.
The crop situation in India is clearly not good : Maharashtra state has announced that there is a 50% reduction in cane availability. It is therefore contemplating halving the crushing permits which will mean that 50 [presumably small?] factories will not operate this year.
The current year’s crop, at 4.4 million tons of sugar, is expected to be about 10% lower than the last one. Although part of the problem is blamed on weather in the Mackay region, there is also an element of limiting fertiliser application due to its high price.
MONSANTO BUYS BREEDING COMPANY
Monsanto, the major agrochemicals company [it calls itself an ‘agricultural’ company] has purchased Brazilian cane breeder Aly Participacoes Ltda for $290 million. Most of the interest seems to be in the applied genomics division which could be re-focused to apply its transgenic technology to a range of crops.
MORE PLASTICS FROM CANE
The University of Queensland’s CRC SIIB [its too long : look it up for yourself!] seems to focus on cane plant breeding. It argues that sugarcane’s high photosynthetic efficiency makes it an idea ‘factory’ for the production of specialist chemicals. One of its latest patents is for a transgenic cane which secretes polyhydroxybutyrate [PHB], a biodegradable plastic.