By Ulf Laessing / Reuters
NEAR ABU HEBERA VILLAGE: Sudan plans to increase sugar production by 450,000 tons annually with the help of a $1 billion plant, aiming to end dependency on imports and start exporting sugar by 2014, officials and executives said.
The African country is trying to cut food imports stoking inflation and eating into the dwindling budget. Sudan is undergoing an economic crisis after losing three-quarters of its oil production — the lifeline of the economy — when South Sudan became independent in July.
Boosting sugar production is a top priority as sugar is the most important food item for the 32 million Sudanese. The country is the one of the biggest African sugar producers after South Africa and Egypt but needs to import at least 400,000 tons annually.
To achieve self sufficiency, Sudan will launch in April a new sugar plant, the White Nile Sugar Co, with an initial annual white sugar output of 150,000 tons, General Manager Hassan Satti told Reuters on Saturday.
“Next year we will have 250,000 tons and in three years we will come to full capacity of the project, which is 450,000 tons of sugar,” Satti said while touring the plant’s sugar cane fields located in White Nile state some 170 kilometers (130 miles) south of Khartoum.
The new plant, in which Sudan’s Kenana Sugar Co, owned by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Sudan, is the biggest shareholder, will also produce power, animal feed and ethanol. Other shareholders are Sudanese firms and two Egyptian investors.
“In the coming two years we will be about 85 percent sufficient (in sugar). In 2014 we will be self-sufficient and we’ll be having 100,000 metric tons for exports,” Industry Minister Abdul-Wahab Osman told Reuters.
Together with two other sugar plants — Kenana and a government-owned entity —Sudan’s sugar production will hit 1.5 million tons by 2014, he said.
Sudan plans to build four more plants with help of development loans from India and China which would propel production to more than 2 million tons in 2016.
“The plan is to produce 10 million tons,” Osman said, without giving a timeframe. “Sugar is one of the most important product in Sudan … because it is a locomotive for other products like animal feed … (and) ethanol. All these products will be produced in the sugar factories.”
The White Nile Sugar Co was established in 2004 and will go online in April. Located in a remote savannah region, the plant will be fed with water from the nearby White Nile.
The company will produce power as a by-product, much needed in Sudan which is struggling to supply the vast and mostly arid country with electricity.
“The other main product is electricity. We’re planning (to produce) 140 megawatt of power. Half of that we’re going to consume inside the project, half of that is for export to the national grid,” Satti said.
Within two years the plant will also produce 100,000 tons of animal feed and 45 million tons of ethanol annually, he said.
In another expansion the company wants to produce 20,000 tons a year of sunflower, peanuts and sorghum, a staple food in Sudan.