Recently, the Metal Engineering Corporation announced that it has commenced commissioning of Omo-Kuraz I Sugar Factory machinery to commence the trial production soon. The factory is one of the six factories planned to be built in Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples State. Upon going fully operational, the factory has the capacity to crash 12,000 tonnes of sugar-cane and produce 13,000 quintals of sugar per day.
In similar news, the Tana Beles Sugar Development Project will be completed in three months time. The construction of three sugar factories with 12,000 tonnes crashing capacity each is in progress. Sugar-cane cultivation is under way on a total area of 75,000 hectares. Each sugar factory will have a capacity of producing 242,000 tonnes of sugar and 20,827 meter cube ethanol per year. So far, the project has created 18,000 jobs.
The Ethiopian government is aggressively constructing new sugar processing factories, refurbishing the old factories and expansion of land development for sugar-cane cultivation. Actually, these factories are a part of government's measure taken to boost the national sugar production to satisfy the local demand of sugar.
Since the sugar industry acquainted with Ethiopia 60 years ago when the first sugar processing factory was laid down around Wonji plains, East Shao Zone of Oromia State, until recently the number of factories were very much limited to four small to medium sized ones. These factories together have the capacity to produce 300,000 tonnes of sugar annually, which only covers 60 per cent of the annual demand for domestic consumption.
Though Ethiopia is endowed with favourable climate, enormous land and water resources for large-scale irrigated development of sugar-cane more than 60 years of experience the capacity to cultivate sugar-cane development was limited to merely 35,000 hectares.
As a result, the individual consumption of sugar in Ethiopia is one of the lowest in the world with about 5 to 6 kg. The demand of sugar has been steadily pushing up in the country. Consequently, the public has been facing shortages of sugar in the market. This led the nation to import considerable amount of sugar with foreign currency.
However, over the last decade, the government has begun addressing the shortage of sugar strategically. The government has made considerable investments to boost the country's capacity to produce sugar. It has already launched sugar development programme to undertake new and expansion projects across the country with a clear objective of boosting sugar production to satisfy the domestic sugar demand as well as for any possible export in the coming couple of years. With these investments, the government has set ambitious plan to becoming one of the world's ten largest sugar producers by 2023.
At present there are four operating sugar factories in Ethiopia at three separate locations namely, Wonji-Shoa, Metahara and Finchaa. Undertaking expansion in old sugar factories was one of the strategies to boost sugar production in the country. The expansions have enabled Wonji, Metehara and Finchaa factories to produce 75,000, 136,692 and 110 tonnes of sugar respectively, though their total capacity should be 300,000 tonnes.
The construction of more than ten new sugar factories is under way. The new projects are located at Tana Beles (three) factories in the Amhara State; Welkayt in Tigrai State, Kesem and Tendaho in Afar State and the Kuraz project for six factories in the South Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples State.
The sugar industry has many benefits that ensure the social and economical benefits of citizens. In total the ongoing sugar development projects have created more than 350,000 jobs in the first GTP. Certainly, the projects and associated development activities will provide more jobs for the community in the second GTP.
In addition to satisfying the local demand of sugar, the factories are envisaged producing ethanol. The nation has been blending ethanol produced from only Metehara and Finchaa factories with gasoline since 2009 with 5 per cent ethanol content later to 10 per cent. For instance, Metehara has the capacity to produce 12,500 cubic litre ethanol per year.
Above all, the sugar industry has been identified as potential sector to generate foreign currency from export beyond satisfying the local demand. The corporation has set plan to produce 2.3 million quintals of sugar, securing 1.3 billion USD from expert of 1.25 million tonnes at the end of the second GTP.
The ongoing sugar development projects are believed to bring significant changes for the residents of the region, socially, economically and culturally. The communities will become far better off as they benefit from irrigated land, improved social services access to schools, health centres, to water and electricity, and telephone links as well as roads and others, support from agricultural experts and job opportunities.
The sugar industry is labour intensive while demanding the multi-faceted capacity building programme at various levels of in the industry. So that, for technical and other support service all actors especially the sugar development corporation needs to do their assignments ahead of time since the skilled labour required for both existing and newly coming sugar factories.
The nation's intervention in the sugar industry has taken a different form and dare to say a golden age for the sugar industry. The sugar industry in Ethiopia is becoming not only an issue of a certain sector industry development but also a multi-sectoral approach to address societal and economical concerns of the community.
Therefore, leaders at all levels, partners engaged in the sugar development, the communities and the regulating and the focused entity, the Ethiopian Sugar Development Corporation are responsible to manage these ongoing huge sugar development projects and materialize the nation's aspirations in the industry.