Kabuye Sugar Works (KSW), the country’s only sugar producing factory is facing a shortfall of about 140,000 tonnes of sugarcane annually.
This has caused a shortage of sugar on the Rwandan market, pushing prices up. Right now, in some places sugar has increased by 53 per cent per kilogramme, from Frw650 in February to Frw1,000.
KSW management says they don’t have land to plant more sugarcane. Part of the 3,000 hectares of land government allocated KSW at Nyabarongo is flooded. The poor drainage network in the area is causeing sugarcane in the area to rot before maturity. Flood control specialists from the Netherlands visited the plantations twice to find out possible ways of improving the drainage system. But their findings and recommendations are still in ministry of Agriculture.
Vincent Karega, State Minister for Industry and Investment Promotion said government is considering a cost sharing scheme to manage the swamp. He also said government may allocate more land in a dry area.
When The New Times visited KSW factory at Kabuye, the machines had been switched off. The switch off was attributed to a loss of raw material prompting management to announce that the factory could shutdown.
"We may be forced to shut down the factory until we have enough sugarcane supply," said management. But it is unlikely that the sugarcane supply gap may be closed soon. Sugarcanes take 18 to 20 months to mature, if quality sugar is to be produced.
S.V. Rao, the KSW Managing Director said the factory now operates for 12 hours only contrary to the intended 24 hours.
KSW suggests called on government to allocate them land to grow more sugarcane in order to sustain the demand. The sugar factory heavily depends on out-growers for most of the sugarcane they crush.
"Out-growers supply 60 per cent of the sugarcane," Rao said.
In 1999, out growers had 200 hectares of land but now the acreage has grown to 2,200 hectare and the number is expected to increase.
Management is worried that depending on out growers for raw material leaves the factory in uncertainty. Farmers could switch to other more paying crops leaving the factory without sugarcane.
To import sugar
To keep their agents in business and check the escalating prices, KSW plans to import 260,000 tonnes of sugar from Kakira Sugar Works, one of the Madhivani Group of Company’s sister company based in Uganda.
"The samples have been submitted to Rwanda Bureau of Standards," Rao said. He said whereas the factory has a capacity to produce 30,000 tonnes of sugar annually above the country’s demand, they are currently producing only 14,000 tonnes.
The country’s annual sugar demand is about 22,000 tonnes.
Karega said the capacity of KSW is only 57 per cent of the total annual demand, which is insufficient to satisfy the country’s current demand.