Chairman of the Sugarcane Growers Association of Malawi, Mr Frighton Njolomole attended an international conference in Ivory Coast which was organized by World Association of Beet and Cane Growers (WABCG). The conference takes place annually with the aim of appraising the member countries on current developments in the sugar industry and deliberate on the future strategies. This year the conference took place in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast from 13th to 15th March, 2017. Countries that participated in the conference are United Kingdom, France, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, Morocco, Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua, Malawi, Sudan, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and the host Ivory Coast. International Sugar Organization also attended the conference. Organizers of the conference were World Association of Beet and Cane Growers and was presided over by the International Sugar Organization.
The conference focused its theme on innovation as the driving force of sustainability in world sugar sectors. And during the conference, WABCG presented the results of its study on the technical support available throughout the world in sugarcane and beet production.
This study was conducted in recognition that it is through innovation that agricultural production can take up the leading challenges in particular climate change, which will have a double impact on the growers. It will increase the uncertainty of yields and accentuate price volatility.
The study reveals that private companies, who need a return on investment, cannot invest alone in the potential of agronomic innovation. WABCG therefore calls upon governments to support investment in agricultural research and technical innovation with emphasis on technology transfer. In order to optimize the investment, it must be:
• Aimed at independent scientific bodies providing services to the sector, whose objective is to establish the best technical recommendations.
• Accompanied by a wide transfer of the results in the field, with the support of the growers’ associations who must have the necessary means to assist their members at technical level.
The World Association of Beet and Cane Growers underlines that it is also through innovation in the contractual relationship with sugar processors that sustainability will take shape. The Association observed that beet and cane prices are usually based on the application of a pre-defined formula according to the value of the final products. Nevertheless, it calls for innovation in the face of price volatility, for example by considering effective access to futures markets and other risk management systems.
During the world round up SUGAM highlighted the challenges the sugarcane sector in Malawi encountered in the year 2016 such as unfavorable weather, intermittent electricity supply and the persistent pests and diseases that affected most of the farmers in Malawi.
The presentation also highlighted that Malawi’s ethanol producing companies (ETHCO and Presscane) are in the process of procuring and planting their own crushers under RAMA (Raw Materials) Project, an initiative which will lead to the development of 4500ha of land for sugarcane production and creation of additional 4000 small holder sugarcane growers within the industry.
According to the SUGAM Chairman, there were a number of lessons which were drawn during the international conference as follows:
• After Brexit, the UK is likely to be negotiating trade deals with world countries as it may not automatically transfer the trade agreements that were applying whilst within EU. Given that the UK remains a deficit region as it imports half of its sugar. Malawi as a surplus country may therefore position herself to explore the UK market through Ministry of Industry Trade and Tourism, prepare for the trade negotiations that UK is likely to undertake.
• The liberalization of the sugar market in the EU post 2017 will bring about changes in the sugar sector such as the elimination of production quotas and the minimum prices. Malawi as one of the efficient sugar producing countries in the SADC region needs to strategise on how to maintain its supply to the EU or possibly exploit the regional market.
• Malawi also needs to expand the sugar industry through diversification along the sugarcane value chain like other countries such as Nicaraguan in Central America in order to spread the risks associated with the global trade dynamics. Possible areas of interventions could be the production of sugarcane and all downstream products such as bio-ethanol, carbon dioxide, pharmaceuticals, co-generation of energy and bio-diesel.
• Implementation of the Extension Service for sugarcane out growers in Malawi should be priotised to ensure efficient and effective utilization of resources.
• Climate change awareness should take center stage in all gatherings that farmers make and penalties if need be to be applied to the law breakers.
• Smallholder sugarcane farmers should be encouraged to engage in irrigation production to ensure maximum yield.