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March 13, 2011

Tanzania sugar agro-industrial initiative receives government support

The government’s dream of realising a ‘green revolution’ resulting in part from the implementation of the national Kilimo Kwanza initiative is fast becoming a reality at Kagera Sugar Company Limited.

Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda made a working tour of the agro-industrial complex in Kagera Region yesterday and was visibly impressed by the massive scale on which it 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 Tanzania 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,” he added.

The PM explained 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 Kagera Sugar in fully supporting Kilimo Kwanza, an initiative resulting from partnership between the government and the private sector, including the Tanzania National Business Council.

Kagera Sugar 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”.

He said over 100 kilometres of underground piping has been installed on the estate to ensure availability of water “literally at the flick of a switch”.

“These in turn feed the automated centre pivots that irrigate the sugarcane 24 hours per day throughout the season, ensuring optimum growing conditions and high yields. This modern state of the art system pumps water from the Kagera River, transforming the area into a luscious green belt producing over 100 tonnes of sugarcane per hectare,” he elaborated.

The GM also explained that they have already embarked on Phase II of the irrigation infrastructure by installing a further 42 pivots during the current season to cover an additional 3,000 hectares of land at a cost of 25 billion/-.

“The communities neighbouring our company, notably sugarcane growers, have also been benefited immensely from our activities because their farms progress rapidly largely owing to the material and other support we extend to them from time to time,” he said.

GM Rana explained that the support has been in the form of offers of use of tractors and ploughs, supply of seedcane and technical advice, and guarantees for loans requested by outgrowers from banks and other financial institutions.

He said this has had a positive effect on the lives and economies of the local communities because it has helped them generating more wealth and, by extension, alleviating poverty.

Kagera Sugarcane Outgrowers Association chairman Annas Swaibu confirmed the reports, saying: “Our community of outgrowers is extremely grateful for the ongoing support and the cordial relations they have with the company. The cooperation has really improved our lives.”

GM Rana meanwhile revealed that his company has spent some 180 billion/- since it was privatised, chiefly in agricultural and irrigation infrastructure as well as in factory rehabilitation and expansion.

“The company’s strategic plans recognise that the use of irrigation is a crucial necessity for the success of any large-scale agricultural project. The added benefit of irrigation is that sugarcane yields can go from 50 to over 100 tonnes per hectare as well as give the assurance of having a good crop irrespective of adverse weather conditions,” he added.

He said that would ensure that the most efficient use was made of available land and water resources, “leading to predictable – possibly optimum – crops harvests”.

He added that the company would ultimately have the ability to grow and process 1 million tonnes of sugarcane, producing 100,000 tonnes of sugar a year.

IPP Media

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