Kessem sugar project takes farmers, private sector under its wing

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Addis Ababa, 16 June 2014 (WIC) – Kessem sugar development project underway in Afar regional state is expected to boost Ethiopia’s sugar production when completed at the end of this year, but beyond that the multi faceted development project has taken local farmers and private businesses under its wing.

When completed, the sugar factory will produce 260,000 tons of sugar annually when it starts operating at full capacity. The projects will cultivate 20,000 hectares of sugarcane plantation in Kessem and Bolhomon areas.

So far over 5,500 hectares of land has been covered with sugarcane plantations, according to Miruts Weldai, deputy head of the project’s farm operations. They plan to cover another 7,000 hectares of land during second round plantations expected to commence this month.

The project has brought unique opportunities for local farmers and private farms. In March 2014, Ethiopian Sugar Corporation, who owns state financed sugar projects in the country, signed the first ever out-grower agreement with a private company – Amibara Agricultural Development plc.

Based on the deal, Amibara, a private agriculture farm, will supply sugarcanes to Kessem sugar development project for three years. The company, whose farm is located in close proximity to Kessem project, will cover 6,000 hectares of land with sugarcane plantations.

Since the deal was signed, over 3,300 hectares of land has been covered with plantations, Miruts told WIC.

Besides offering job opportunities for locals, the project is providing trainings in sugarcane farming skills to local farmers.

The training aims to equip local farmers with the required skills which to cultivate sugarcanes on their plot and supply them to project’s crushing plant in an out-grower deal.

Farmers are being organized in cooperatives with whom the Kessem sugar factory will negotiate out-grower deals.

Such arrangements are not new for the corporation, in February 2014, Wonji-Shewa Sugar Factory struck its ninth out-grower deal with farmers’ cooperatives agreeing to purchase a quintal of sugarcane for 50 birr.

Kessem sugar plant, whose construction is being carried out by the Chinese Complant Group Inc, is expected to start crushing in November 2014. The irrigation dam on Kessem River is also nearing completion. The state owned Federal Water Works Construction Enterprise is carrying out the construction.