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Komenda Sugar Factory to refine imported raw sugar to augment local production

BY: Shirley Asiedu-Addo
The inside of the Komenda Sugar Factory. Picture: GABRIEL AHIABOR
The inside of the Komenda Sugar Factory. Picture: GABRIEL AHIABOR

The Komenda Sugar Factory (KSF) will start the processing of unrefined sugar, molasses until it is able to grow raw materials on its own to feed the plant.

Management has almost concluded arrangements to import molasses to refine at the factory.

The refining of sugar would augment processing of sugar from local farmers who would supply sugarcane to the factory.

Until the factory is able to get it's full raw material supply, management is working on importing unrefined sugar to be refined at the factory to augment production.

A member of the Board of Directors of the factory and Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) for Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abrem (KEEA), Solomon Ebo Appiah, in an interview with the Daily Graphic on the current state of the factory, said the measure was an alternative plan to ensure sugar was produced in the country at a relatively cheaper cost.

He indicated that a lot of work had been done to get the factory to restart production, saying although the timelines were not exact due to unforeseen technical contingencies, the factory was ready to start production soon.

He declined to give the name of the country from which molasses would be sourced.

Raw material source

Already, 22,000 acres of farmlands have been secured for the cultivation of sugarcane in and around the Sekyere Obuasi/Sekyere Hemang area.

Other communities in and around Winneba are also in talks with the authorities of the factory for the cultivation of sugarcane to feed the factory.

When the Daily Graphic visited the factory premises, it realised that sugarcane nurseries were also being developed.

However, the team was refused a tour of the facility, with workers at the factory saying they had been instructed not to allow the media into the facility.

The Daily Graphic team, nevertheless, saw about a dozen workers at the facility moving in and out the factory machinery setup.

Vehicles also moved in and out of the facility with workers.

Already, a few food vendors have taken their positions outside the facility, selling food for the workers.

Maintenance

The KSF, which has become popular because of the political wranglings surrounding it, is being revived to start production, with sources at the facility saying that could be in the next few weeks.

The sources indicated that there was extensive maintenance works ongoing at the facility.

“This is no political talk; I will not play politics with the destiny of the people I serve," Mr Appiah said.

He said the government was doing everything within its power to ensure that the factory was working.

Already, he said, 92 factory hands had been engaged to work at the factory, while water test runs of the facility had been conducted.

"There are a lot of works going on at the factory right now. A three-million litre reservoir has been constructed. The roof of the factory has been changed and a raw sugar warehouse has been built to store raw unrefined sugar for processing. There has also been the overhauling of electric motors and conveyors," the MCE said.

He added that there had also been sand blasting of equipment and retrofitting of turbines and the boiler house.

“Molasses tanks have also been sand blasted and cleaned, while the factory has been walled and repainted,” Mr Appiah said.

President's assurance

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo last February gave an assurance to traditional leaders of Komenda that the KSF would begin production by April this year, based on a report he had received from the technical team on site.

"The Indian contractors and the technical people in charge will complete the remaining civil works by the end of March. Consequently, all outstanding works will be completed by April for proper production to begin," President Akufo-Addo had told a delegation from the Komenda Traditional Council during a courtesy call on him at the Jubilee House in Accra on Wednesday, February 23, this year.

However, the timeline has not been met.

But Mr Appiah said works done at the facility were ample evidence that it would start work soon.

"We don't want to give exact timelines and mount pressure on what is being done, but I can assure you that it will start production soon," he said.

I’m convinced

The acting President of the Komenda Traditional Council, Nana Kwohin V, in an interview, said the people were expectant.

He said after a tour of the facility, he was convinced that something meaningful was going on there that would lead to the start of production.

He said the traditional authorities had done their bit to ensure that adequate land was available to begin production.

Financial support needed

Nana Kwohin said farmers were ready and willing to engage in sugarcane production once they were certain that the factory was there to provide a ready market for their produce.

He said the impact of the collapse of the factory had compelled many of the youth to drift to more vibrant towns in search of jobs, leaving the Komenda community as a pale shadow of its once bubbling self.

The Assembly Member for the Sisem/Ahenfie Electoral Area in Komenda, Alphonse Baidoo, said what the community wanted was for the factory to start production.

"What the youth want is for the factory to start production to bring economic life back to Komenda,” he said.

He indicated that there had been engagements with the community and interested farmers to register with the factory.

"We are patiently waiting and we are optimistic that production will be a reality this time round," he added.

Background

In 2016, the government secured a $35-million Indian Export-Import (EXIM) Bank loan to set up the KSF.

An additional $24 million facility was set aside to support outgrower farmers.

The factory was commissioned on May 31, 2016 by President John Dramani Mahama to produce sugar, but it became stillborn due to a multiplicity of factors that were described as "technical and operational challenges".

Since its commissioning, the factory has been left to deteriorate.

While addressing a durbar of the chiefs and the people of Komenda in the Central Region on September 14, 2018, President Akufo-Addo gave an assurance that the government was in the process of getting a strategic investor to revive the factory.

On April 5, this year, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Alan Kyerematen, also assured Parliament that a strategic investor would be named by the end of that month to acquire the assets of the factory and help operationalise it.

In November 2019, the government named Park Agrotech Ghana Limited, a Ghanaian-Indian company, as a strategic investor to revamp the KSF.

The investor was to inject $28 million into the factory between 2020 and 2023.

Park Agrotech, which emerged as the successful bidder after a rigorous selection process conducted by the accounting and advisory firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), was expected to invest $11 million of the amount in sugarcane cultivation, $6 million to upgrade plant and machinery and $11 million as working capital to bring the ailing factory back on its feet.

In July 2020, Park Agrotech signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the University of Cape Coast as part of plans to revamp the KSF.