Never once in Ethiopian modern history that the nation has embarked on a capital intensive and with so many sugar development projects except during the kick off the First G.T.P.
The nation was introduced with the industry some sixty years back working with the Netherland¢s Company – H.V.A. in a joint venture modality. And, the construction of sugar industries in Ethiopia by then and the following years thereafter was on “one at a time” basis only while the constructions of the sugar factories were carried out by foreign companies.
Unlike the history of the constructions of the nation¢s sugar industry the spine-breaking G.T.P. of the sugar sector has aimed at building ten sugar factories within five years at selected areas of the various regions of the nation which are located at areas devoid of infrastructures. Lack of domestic exposure to such sophisticated industry construction as well as the burden of building various infrastructures prior constructing the factories have made running the sector more cumbersome and time consuming than any other mega project of the G.T.P.
The other factor that makes the sector the most huge one is that it calls for building dams and/or diversion weirs; constructing long distance stretched big, medium as well as small canals; land leveling and cane plantation work on a very wide area of land; construction of both residential and non-residential houses in hundreds; construction of hospitals, health stations, schools of different levels, internal roads, potable water and many more service giving institutions as the sector deploys thousands of personnel and their families. Hence, it is much easier to say that building a single sugar factory is like building a town.
Some who have been in the leadership of sugar factories for long used to be heard saying “ Being a General Manager at Sugar Factory is Being a Mayor ” And, it is because that a manager of a sugar factory not only manages the routine business of the factory and the very wide cane plantation field but also oversees the day to day lives of the personnel’s and their household needs such as water and power supply, security, market and transport as well as school access, hygiene, various sport fields and so many others a certain community demands to get as a necessity as well as luxury.
Hence, since establishment, Sugar Corporation together with domestic as well as foreign stake holders has accomplished so many tasks which lay the favorable situation to exploit this export-oriented sugar industry. And, so far many encouraging results are registered.
Among these the basic infrastructural development and social service facilities so far constructed can be considered as great achievements attained for it was too hard to see any social service and basic infrastructure in the areas where sugar development projects are currently operating.
The other achievement gained is the entrance of Arjo Didessa, Kessem and Tendaho sugar factories into operation among them some with minor limitations though they could not narrow the unmatched domestic demand and supply relations of the sugar product. The aforementioned three sugar factories in operation, as it is the nature of the industry, will reach their maximum crushing design capacity through a very short period of time. It is one step ahead to hear about sugar product not from the old Wonji Shewa, Metehara and Fincha sugar factories we were familiar for about 20 to 60 years but from other three new factories.
The Completion of expansion projects of Fincha and Wonji Shewa sugar factories with the later one replaced by new and modern sugar factory was made possible during the First G.T.P. Hence, currently two expansion projects and three new factories with total installed crushing capacity of 36,250 tons of cane a day are operational. Before the establishment of Sugar Corporation the three old factories had only a total crushing capacity of 13,900 tons of cane a day. Likewise, as their project progress report indicates, 3 other new factories such as Omo-Kuraz One and Omo-Kuraz Two as well as Tana Beles One sugar factories with installed crushing capacity of 36,000 tons of cane a day are expected to be operational in near future.
With regard to Irrigation infrastructure of the sector, our country had only 30,397 hectares of irrigable land for cane plantation before the kick off the First GTP which so far has reached 95,760 hectares.
And, as cane development, currently the land covered with cane is 95,760 hectares. It was only 30,397 hectares some six years back.
Concerning the construction of houses for sugar factories personnel, the Corporation has built 4,218 residential houses and 107 non-residential buildings till to date. And the construction of 2,526 residential and 67 non-residential houses is in progress and will be completed soon.
As any developing nation Ethiopia has a problem of unemployment. And, when exploiting the potential of the nation for sugar development sector is envisaged minimizing the number of unemployment of the nation greatly is one among many other targets aimed at. Hence, the sugar industry sector can be taken as the only single sector that has created huge volume of job opportunities to the citizens for the last five years. So far, the sector has created direct job opportunities to more than 350,000 citizens. Moreover, due to these projects hundreds of thousands of citizens are enabled to make their daily breads. One has to note that the sector involves from highly skilled foreign as well as domestic professionals to daily laborers in tens of thousands of numbers.
As mentioned above all new sugar development projects are being carried out at selected remote areas identified as best suitable for the sector while all in all they had been devoid of any infrastructure and social service institution. Accordingly, construction of social infrastructures and community facilities is the other huge task carried out by the Corporation to ensure community benefits.
In this regard, 286 social infrastructures and facilities (such as schools, potable water and ponds for people and cattle respectively, flour mills, health posts of both human and cattle, training centers, association shops, roads, etc.) and 524.5 hectares of irrigated land is provided to households living around the factories and projects to cultivate any crop they choose. Furthermore, 11,817 households residing around sugar factories/projects are organized in 75 sugarcane out-grower associations getting irrigable land from the Corporation and in some projects they have already tested the benefit supplying cane to factories.
The other task Sugar Corporation has been carrying with regard to community benefit is resettling them where ever it is only necessary by building various infrastructures and social institutions as well as effecting compensation to their properties at household levels.
Moreover, the Corporation has been engaged in building dams and constructing large irrigation schemes to realize the goal set in the sector at the various regions of the nation. It is the other huge task the Corporation has been shouldered with. And, this engagement of the Corporation, beyond the sector, has been seen bearing fruit in coping up; though not avoid the impact of the 2015/16 El Nino weather. The very significant role played by sugar factories such as Metehara, Kessem, Tendaho sugar factories as well as Tana Beles and Wolkayit Sugar Development Projects in assisting natives around them exposed to the drought by supplying water, top sugarcanes, molasses as well as bundles of hays to their cattle is worth mentioning as fruit of every effort of the Corporation.
So, one has to bear in mind that these all huge tasks which are also very many in number Sugar Corporation has been engaged in for the last six years could not be imagined without an intensive capital.
These all does not mean that Sugar Corporation has no setbacks while executing such huge projects at a time. It shares the lack of capacity in skilled man power the nation as a developing country is still facing that can administer such huge as well as more complicated tasks which call for a much synchronized project activities progress as well as the technology gap. Therefore, problems reflected in project activities, lack of knowledge in project management and contract administration is the main failures seen in the Corporation while turnover of skilled man power in the sector is the other problem reflected.
On the other hand, as it is explicitly mentioned above no domestic sugar factory-constructing contractor had been involved in the building of the pioneer sugar factories of the nation. And, it is for the first time as a nation that an Ethiopian sugar factory-constructing contractor – Metals and Engineering Corporation- METEC has engaged itself in the sector as a beginner i.e. during the kick off the first G.T.P.
This has opened a new chapter in the nation¢s history of sugar development endeavor as we had been used to be just recipient of technologies where there was no technology transfer. This is a big leap as a nation though there is a failure in meeting the schedule with our domestic contractor in completing construction of sugar factories.
One should not skip over that those nations known building sugar factories including fabrication of a very complicated and sophisticated machineries of the industry has more than a century of experience in the construction business of the industry. The main issue to regret over is the foreign currency we as a nation are being obliged to spend to import sugar from abroad while by now we should have had started exporting it. And, that is the lesson Sugar Corporation as well as METEC including other stakeholders should draw from the challenges they faced as well as the results they have registered so far so that realizing the goal set in the sector is possible from now on as the sector has started bearing fruit though not at a full scale.
Here one can notice that the foreign currency Sugar Corporation has recently started getting from merely exporting one of the many other by-products of sugar- Molasses let alone the main product. Currently, the Corporation, reaching on an agreement with Rownet Business PLC on February, 2016, has began exporting molasses to Europe in which from 100 to 120 thousand tones of molasses will be exported to England annually enabling the Corporation or the nation earn more than 17,000,000 USD yearly. Note that molasses is one among other by-products of Sugar. United Molasses Limited of England, a renowned company in molasses treading worldwide receiving the molasses exported distributes to the European countries which are refining 80% of the world molasses supply. And, this trade transaction sometime in the future may attract these refining companies to invest here in Ethiopia building their factories as we are more accessible than other molasses exporting sugar producing countries.
As explicitly mentioned above the huge activities carried out since the First G.T.P. with large personnel of the sector cannot be imagined unless and otherwise the nation has allocated the necessary budget. And, the nation has done so to the sector and the sector is now close to blossom as envisaged at the start. Nonetheless, both Sugar Corporation as well as METEC need close support and follow up from the concerned government bodies. Now it is the momentum. It is crystal clear that the sugar development sector is the first and foremost capital intensive project both in the first as well as second G.T.P. But NOTE that the capital intensive sugar development sector i.e. the WHITE GOLD which has been in the making is still bearing FRUIT! It is to BLOSSM SOON!!!