Maputo — A new sugar plantation and mill, known as the Massingir Agro-Industrial Project (MAI), is scheduled to begin production in 2016, covering 37,000 hectares in Massingir district in the southern Mozambican province of Gaza.
The project involves investment of 740 million US dollars, and will create 7,000 new jobs. The majority shareholder, owning 51 per cent of MAI is the South African company TSB sugar, which is part of the Remgro group.
The remaining 49 per cent is held by SIAL (Limpopo Agro-Industrial Investment Company), a Mozambican company whose chairperson is former Minister of Industry, Octavio Muthemba.
MAI is being established on the same area once occupied by “Procana” , a project intended to produce ethanol from sugar cane. Procana was set up by the London based Central African Mining and Exploration Company (CAMEC) in 2007. But the government cancelled the Procana contract in late 2009, when little of the promised 500 million dollars of investment had appeared. Procana only cleared 800 hectares of land out of the 30,000 hectares allocated to it.
On Friday, Mozambican President Armando Guebuza visited Massingir to observe progress on MAI. A confident Muthemba told him that MAI will have a multiplier effect on the economy of the district and of the country. He said that MAI will feed the businesses of local small and medium companies, and will bring in foreign currency for the country since 70 per cent of the sugar it produces will be exported.
Currently, MAI is working with the local communities to demarcate the land for the sugar plantations, a task that is almost complete, Muthemba said. The surveyors had identified and confirmed the areas that were once allocated to Procana.
The government has yet to approve the area, after which MAI will be granted title to the land.
The next step will be a viability study, looking at questions that range from the quality of the soils, the availability and cost of water, and the environmental impact of the project. During consultation with the local communities, community representatives visited, in March, TSB sugar mills in the South African province of Mpumalanga, to see for themselves how the company operates. According to Muthemba, the project will provide 1,000 hectares for the food security of Maasingir communities, and will also built a plant producing animal feed for the livestock of local villagers. Later, 2,500 hectares will be entrusted to the communities to grow their own sugar cane (which they can then sell to MAI).
TSB general manager John du Plessis told Guebuza he believed in the strong agricultural potential of Mozambique.
He said the Massingir soils are suitable for growing sugar cane, and the Massingir Dam provides a reliable source of water.
“MAI is near TSB’s existing operations in South Africa, which will facilitate technical support in implementing the project”, said Plessis.
While in Massingir, Guebuza also visited the dam, built on the Elephants River, a major tributary of the Limpopo, in the 1970s. Work to rehabilitate the dam is being undertaken by the Chinese contractor CHICP, with funding of 29 million US dollars from the government and from the African Development Bank.