Sugar is one of the top ten highly demanded agro-industrial products. Ethiopia has favorable natural resources and plentiful man power for this lucrative product. Because of the suitable natural resource the nation is endowed with for sugarcane production, the country is one of the very few nations known internationally for their sugarcane productivity.
Well aware of the natural gift for the sector as well as cognizant of the sector`s leading role in the country`s economy, it is now nine years since Ethiopian government has been allocating high amount of investment capital. Though the effort to utilize the sector has not been successful when weighed against the goals set so far, it is possible to say that it is promising.
Among the main causes for the failure in attaining the goals set on the sector are lack of conducting appropriate feasibility study free of any other motive on new sugar development projects prior construction, commencing of factory constructions work having no proper infrastructures, lack of implementation skill, lack of input supply as well as budget and foreign exchange shortage.
Performance of new sugar development projects was not fruitful as expected. Hence, it was not possible to satisfy the highly increasing domestic sugar demand with local production which intensifies the prevailing gap between demand and supply even more. The government, therefore, continued to import sugar allocating high amount of foreign currency. We all understand that this is not a sustainable solution in terms of the foreign currency shortage the country faces.
Therefore, the Ethiopian government, in 2019/20, is working either to partially or fully privatize six sugar factories and projects so as to fulfill local sugar supply, ease loan burden, bring technology transfer and also earn foreign exchange.
In relation with this the Government has allowed loan to Sugar Corporation to utilize it for the completion of sugar development projects and payment of foreign loan. Accordingly, the remaining works of Tana Beles Sugar Factory One is transferred to a foreign contractor. There is also a move to complete Omo Kuraz Sugar Factory One giving the remaining works to a foreign contractor too. Parallel with this we, setting a plan, are working on further land preparation, irrigation infrastructure, sugarcane planting and housing construction.
The main goal of this year`s plan is to increase the product and productivity of the sugarcane plantations and factories. To realize this goal, we have planned to produce 483,532 tons of sugar and 21 million 417 thousand 140 liters of ethanol by 2019/20.
We have also planned and entered into implementation of a reform package with nine core goals so as to bring the former working culture of the sector back to the Corporation and hence get the desired result. We have focused on eliminating unnecessary expenses and increasing income. The recently held «Plant and Process Conference» is another part of our goal that reflects our preparedness to get it done.
We have also crafted a ten year road map of sugar research and development which brings the sector back to its former shining fame. We, furthermore, have also prepared a five and three year road maps for sugarcane development and factory operation respectively so as to increase production and productivity.
With regard to capacity building, we are giving short and long term training including enrolling professionals to continue for their second and third degrees so as to fill in the leadership and skill gaps seen and bring technology transfer. Accordingly, we have prepared a curriculum on five agricultural and factory operation fields of studies and secured accreditation from Oromiya Occupational Competency Assurance Agency to carry out educational programs from Level One to Four at the Corporation`s Sugar Academy where the Corporation has made the necessary preparation. Furthermore, we have prepared a curriculum on seven fields of study of sugar industry that enables us give trainings at second degree level.
As per our agreement with five universities more than 80 members of leadership as well as senior officers have already begun classes, which is a five round program, as of just concluded Ethiopian summer season. This, we strongly believe, will cease bringing in expatriate staff incurring foreign currency.
As all at the leadership as well as employees are ready to bring change with full gut and a new work sprit it is possible to predict the success of the sugar industry become realized within a short period of time.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to call upon all members of management, employees as well as stake holders to realize the goals set on the sector by this New Year. I would also like to extend my New Year best wish to all.
Sweet Ethiopian New Year!