Amid reports of intermittent shortages of sugar triggering hikes in the price of the item in several parts of Tanzania, Kagera Sugar Limited has a lot more unsold sugar than it can store in its warehouses.
Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives minister Professor Jumanne Maghembe got a feel of the irony when he toured KSL plantations in Kagera Region at the weekend, as reports from Mbeya talked of an acute shortage of sugar leading to hoarding and sky-high prices.
The minister, who flew back to Dar es Salaam yesterday, accordingly commended the company for investing heavily in agriculture and realising massive development “in this crucial sector”.
He has also expressed satisfaction with the company’s continuing efforts in expanding modern agricultural production, initiatives he said had turned the firm into a shining example of success in the development of agriculture.
He said he was impressed by the commitment and investment he witnessed and the fact that the company had fought hard to ensure that the price of sugar in Kagera Region remained at “generally affordable levels”.
A random survey in the region’s administrative headquarters, Bukoba, showed that the price of sugar was priced was far lower than elsewhere in the country. This was despite the fact that most of the inputs the firm needs to continue operating are transported all the way from Dar es Salaam port, over 1,000 kilometers away.
Prof Maghembe was particularly impressed seeing a large number of young graduates, some of them his former students at the Morogoro-based Sokoine University of Agriculture, having taken up management positions at KSL.
He also commended the firm’s management for the training programmes they take their employees through every year, describing the arrangement as an excellent way of “gradually and systematically cultivating and enhancing a wide range of professional skills in the country’s agricultural sector”.
KSL plantations are located close to Tanzania’s borders with Uganda and Rwanda and have for long stood as a reliable supplier of sugar for most of the East African region. However, exportation of the item was suspended last year chiefly owing to the serious shortage of sugar then prevailing in Tanzania, partly blamed on smuggling fuelled by the higher prices offered across the border.
The government has since allowed the importation of sugar, which has eased the scarcity considerably and resulted in KSL building up stocks to the tune of over 11,000 tonnes.
Prof Maghembe toured the company’s warehouses, all of which were filled to capacity, with more sugar stored under tarpaulin covers outsides. This made him confirm that there is no longer any shortage of the item in the country, adding that exportation should resume soon.
Kagera Regional Commissioner Col Fabian Massawe, who accompanied the minister, said he was equally moved by KSL’s efforts and commitment towards implementing the national agricultural initiative popularly known as Kilimo Kwanza.
“The company’s management and staff worked very closely with the regional authorities throughout the sugar crisis, which has enabled the region to be well stocked with reasonably priced sugar,” he noted.
He also commended the firm, saying its massive investments supported the development of outgrower farms in Kagera Region and had made it possible for over 6,000 families to earn a decent living.
During his working tour of KSL early last year, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda was impressed by the massive scale on which the agro-industrial complex was engaged in making an emphatic contribution to the development of agriculture in Tanzania.
He described the firm as one the most successful commercial agricultural projects the country currently boasts, adding that the investment it was making in irrigation was sure to make agriculture “the pride of our country for many generations to come”.
“I have witnessed almost 10,000 hectares of land covered by a green blanket of sugarcane. I have also witnessed a huge fleet of modern agricultural machinery clearing land at a rapid pace for further expansion of the plantations,” said the PM.
He added that he was further impressed by way the company was “making deliberate efforts to support outgrowers and neighbouring communities socially and economically”.
Accordingly, he appealed to more and more residents of the area to engage in sugarcane farming “and thus benefit from the existence of a reliable market for their crop just next door”.
He also called on more players in the industrial sector generally to emulate KSL in supporting Kilimo Kwanza, an initiative resulting from partnership between the government and the private sector, including the Tanzania National Business Council.
KSL general manager Ashwin Rana briefed the PM on how they have been deploying modern technology towards the realisation of “a truly modern commercial agriculture”.
“Bulldozers initially clear the bush and flatten the myriad anthills, before computerised land plane machines laser level the ground, followed by ploughing and ridging on a scale never before seen in East Africa,” said the GM, adding that over 1,500 hectares of new farmland is put under sugarcane at the company every year.
“The latest technology is employed to make the most economical use of the land and ensure efficient irrigation and drainage for maximum production. This has been achieved through high definition, infra-red Lidar aerial surveying, followed by GPS and Laser technology used to prepare and level the land and install drainage and irrigation canals,” he noted.
Rana pointed out that the firm has the largest centre-pivot installation in sub-Saharan Africa, covering 4,000 hectares of sugarcane, “whereas the system comprises pump stations on the Kagera River which feed a network of massive underground pipes that cover the sugarcane fields”.