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Thursday, 10 June 2010

Small-scale growers receive EU-boost

The European Union (EU) has launched a 3 million euro (about K18 billion) grant to a Zambian small-scale sugar out-grower scheme to contribute to Zambia Sugar Plc’s total output. The injection for the sugar industry comes at a time that Zambia Sugar Plc expressed fears that its targeted 180 000 tonnes sugar export to the EU market may slow down due to weak weather conditions and cane being delivered directly to the mill by out-grower schemes.  Commerce minister Felix Mutati called on Zambia Sugar to ensure that it paid the out-grower farmers to make them viable and ensure they continued to remain motivated enough not to abandon cane growing. The EU grant is to go towards the Magobbo Sugar out-grower project and would be implemented by Mazabuka Sugar Cane Grower Trust. The project aims to develop 438 hectares of sugar cane fields for 78 households totaling some 900 people. The head of the EU delegation to Zambia, Dr Derek Fee, said during the launch of the project that the government needed to simplify and facilitate land acquisition for smallholders to create impact on future developments. “Besides, it seems to me that improving technical information and extending services for the out-growers would undoubtedly help to build their capacity and enhance their efficiency and productivity,” he said. Mutati said the over K1 trillion Zambia Sugar expansion programme which this year projects to lift sugar production to 440 000 tonnes from the current 315 000 tonnes, would mean nothing if it did not benefit the local out-grower schemes and business community. Zambia Sugar managing director Steve Langton said the company might fall 10 000 tonnes short of the projected sugar exports to the EU for this financial year.