Omnicane Mauritius Sees 2016 Sugar-Output Drop on Late Harvest

  • Production may fall as much as 6% to 180,000 tons this year
  • Kenya unit may begin injecting power into grid in October

Omnicane Ltd., Mauritius’s biggest sugar producer, expects its output of the sweetener to fall to 180,000 metric tons this year due to slow-maturing cane, Chief Executive Officer Jacques d’Unienville said.

The company in the Indian Ocean island nation that’s aiming to be a regional sugar hub produced 191,076 tons of refined sugar in 2015. The whole country’s output could rise 9.3 percent this year to 400,000 tons, d’Unienville said in an interview in the capital, Port Louis.

“This is a cyclical problem, but we should be able catch up till the end of the year,” he said, referring to a month-long delay in harvesting of the company’s cane.

Sugar cane is the country’s main crop, making up 13 percent of the country’s overall exports last year, according to government statistics. Omnicane, Terra Mauricia Ltd., Alteo Ltd. and Medine Ltd. are the biggest sugar producers in Mauritius.

Omnicane expects Kwale International Sugar Co. of Kenya, in which it holds a 25 percent stake, to start injecting 18 megawatts of electricity from a co-generation plant into the national grid in October. The Kenyan miller has 5,500 hectares of land under cane cultivation.

Omnicane has also partnered with French group Mecamidi to develop energy from hydroelectric generation in East Africa. The first power plant is under construction in Rwanda and will have installed capacity of 5.1 megawatts, he said.

Stiff Competition

Mauritius wants to become a regional sugar hub by importing sugar, refining it and re-exporting it to mitigate against the end of a preferential trade agreement with the European Union. From 2017, the African, Caribbean and Pacific region and nations classified as Least Developed Countries will no longer have a guaranteed market for 3.5 million tons of sugar in the bloc.

While expiry of the agreement that’s been in place for about a decade heralds stiff competition for Mauritius, d’Unienville remains optimistic that exports to other African countries will cover any shortfall. The nation exports an average 300,000 tons to Europe annually.

The sugar hub is essentially a free port activity, allowing the nation that belongs to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the Southern Africa Development Community blocs to import sugar, refine it and re-export back into the regions.

“From a producer of brown sugar, we’ve successfully transformed the industry into a producer of refined, white sugar,” he said.

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