Thursday, 6 June 2013

Kabuye sugar factory to resume operations


GOOD TIMES. A worker at Kabuye Sugar Works loads cane. Rwanda’s sole sugar producer says its annually factory maintenance has taken more time than earlier planned.
Kabuye Sugar Works will resume operations on June 18 after a prolonged maintenance period, N.B. Gohil, the general manager has said.
Gohil was reacting to reports indicating that the firm had stopped production due to a severe shortage of cane after floods destroyed half of its 1,500 hectare plantations in Nyabarongo.
He said in a telephone interview yesterday that the firm’s annual maintenance works were almost complete and it would resume normal operations shortly.
Gohil explained that though the firm had planned the exercise to take 50 days, it was forced to extend the repair period to 90 days because of the damage caused by the floods.
Kabuye Sugar Works is Rwanda’s sole sugar maker, producing about 30 per cent of market supply. The firm is owned by the Madhvani Group, a Ugandan-based firm.
Jim Kabeho, the Madhvani Group executive director, said the annual maintenance is essential to refresh production mechanisms.
“The factory was closed as part of the annual maintenance programme. Normally, we do the maintenance work within 50 to 60 days, but this year it will take longer because of the floods,” Kabeho said.
He added that the firm had informed the Minister of Industry in March about the move. “But flooding in April and May damaged our cane fields and those of the out-growers, reducing the target output by a figure we will determine after the floods have dried up,” he explained.
He also rubbished reports suggesting that over 25,000 casual labourers were laid off to reduce costs. 
“During the annual maintenance period, the company usually sends half of the factory workers on leave and retains a few to carry out the repair works,” he said.
Kabeho also denied reports that the ‘factory closure’ over the past four months resulted in sugar price hikes, saying that the company usually stocks up enough supply to cover the repair period.
“The price of sugar in Kigali has not changed. In March, a 50kg bag of sugar was Rwf33,500, but went up to Rwf34,000 in April. Last month it dropped to Rwf32,500, which is still the same today,” he explained.
He said the challenge of floods was being handled through an ongoing project with support from the Dutch government to drain the floods and reclaim 2,000 hectares in the Nyabarongo swamp. The problem has affected the firm for long. In 2011, heavy rains made 60 per cent of the cane plantations inaccessible.
Last month, the Ministry of Agriculture signed a deal with Kabuye Sugar Works which involves research on new high-yielding and resistant sugarcane clones among other strategies. 
Under the deal, the ministry will mobilise funds to develop infrastructure to improve the wetlands and water management to enhance sugarcane cultivation.
In order to avoid shortages in the country, the government waivered off import duties on sugar.


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