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The Komenda Sugar Factory in the Central Region is not likely to produce sugar for the next one year, unless drastic measures are taken by the government to promote sustainable sugar plantations to feed the factory.
This is the outcome of a study by a team of researchers from the University of Cape Coast (UCC) who worked on a spatial assessment of sustainable feedstock supply to the factory.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ forum on the findings of the research, titled: “Assessment of Sustainable Feedstock Supply to the Komenda Sugar Factory”, a principal researcher of the Department of Environmental Science of the UCC, Dr David Oscar Yawson, said the factory was nowhere near readiness to begin operations.
“You can’t plant and harvest sugar cane in a month. You need at least a year to plant and harvest,” he said.
The research was undertaken with support from the Directorate of Research Innovation and Consultancy (DRIC) of the UCC.
Dr Yawson said it was not possible for the factory to mobilise 10 per cent of its raw material needs within the industrial recommended 40-mile radius of the factory.
He said within that boundary limit, the factory could mobilise only 16,000 tonnes of sugar cane, which is less than 10 per cent of what the 300,000-tonne capacity factory needed to run on an annual basis.
Under the circumstances, he said, steps must be taken urgently to set up sugar cane nurseries and plantations immediately if the factory was to serve its purpose.
The Komenda Sugar Factory was inaugurated by President John Dramani Mahama on May 30, 2016 but was shut down almost immediately for lack of raw materials to feed it.
The factory, which was re-constructed through an Indian Exim Bank loan, has the capacity to crush 1,250 tonnes of sugarcane per day but stands shut till today.
The government spends close to $200 million annually to import sugar into the country.
Farmers in the area who were enthusiastic about the anticipated employment opportunity are now full of mistrust and are also skeptic about statements regarding the reopening of the factory.
Dr Yawson said farmers were losing interest in the factory and that it was important that the little interest left was sustained in order to keep the hope of reviving the factory alive.
He called on the government to bring in high-yielding varieties of sugar cane to ensure that raw material supply was met constantly.
The Director of the DRIC, Prof. Samuel Kobina Annim, said it was important for policy makers to work closely with interested stakeholders to have access to research findings to propel the nation’s industrialisation drive.
The Pro Vice-Chancellor of the UCC, Professor George Oduro, said knowledge was meaningless until it impacted policy and the environment, adding that it was time universities got closer to industry and policy makers as a means of moving the nation’s drive to industrialise.
Sugar development policy
Participants called for a sugar development policy to give direction to the government’s undertaking to produce sugar locally, thereby reducing sugar imports.