ZIMBABWE'S sugar output in 2012/13 is expected to increase by almost 16 percent to 430 000 tonnes from the 372 000 tonnes in 2011/12 season due to an expected six-percent increase in area harvested, improved sugarcane yields and enhancements in the efficiencies of the sugar mills after significant investments.
Sugarcane production in the 2012/13 season is estimated at 3,5 million tonnes, 17 percent more than the three million last season. Sugar exports are therefore projected to reach 160 000 tonnes in the 2012/13 season, with the European Union (EU) and the United States as major export destinations.
According to the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) Report 2012, (Zimbabwe Sugar Annual Report), due to firming domestic prices, no regional exports are expected in 2012/13 season.
"The increase in sugarcane production can be attributed to a six percent increase in the expected area harvested to 37 500 hectares and to an improvement in sugarcane yields per hectare. This increase in yields is mainly due to availability and timely application of production inputs such as fertilisers and chemicals following improved stabilisation of Zimbabwe's economy since dollarisation in 2009," the GAIN report said.
Zimbabwe's market to the EU is secure up to 2015 for duty-free and quota-free sugar exports under the Economic Partnership Agreement.
"Due to firm domestic prices, Zimbabwe did not export to the regional markets in 2011/12 season, and no regional exports are expected in the 2012/13 season," the report said.
"However, the full potential of sugarcane production is not being realised. Currently, private growers are only supplying about 490 000 tonnes of sugarcane. Most sugarcane plots allocated to newly resettled farmers are under-utilised due to the unavailability of credit and financing. This has led to the development of initiatives aimed at rehabilitating and restoring cane production on approximately 11 000 hectares of land on the private growers' cane fields over the next three to four years," the report added.
Plans to restore private growers' cane lands hinge on continued access to the EU Adaptation Funding programme, of which Zimbabwe was allocated US$58 million, of this US$12 million was made available for rehabilitation of infrastructure and replanting of 1 200 hectares of private grower cane land in 2010/11 season, and was completed in August 2011.
A tranche of US$11 million is expected to be released for the further replanting of cane, and the rehabilitation of the Mkwasine rail line.
In addition to the EU initiative, Tongaat Hullet Zimbabwe recently launched the Successful Rural Sugarcane Farming Community Project, whose goal is to assist and accelerate private cane replanting in order to increase sugarcane output to the potential of 1,4 million tonnes from the entire 15 880 hectares by 2015.
"Together with a local bank, the company has established a four-year, US$20 million revolving loan facility to enhance sugarcane production.
"The project is providing inputs on loan to 872 newly resettled sugarcane growers, assistance with tillage services, replanting of cane and extension services. These initiatives are expected to increase the volume of cane crushed by at least 20 percent this season," the report said.
The private growers' sugarcane yields are expected to increase from 54 tonnes per hectare to at least 90 tonnes per hectare.