HARARE, June 21 (The Source) – Lowveld sugar producer, Tongaat Hullet Zimbabwe (THZ) intends to push the capacity utilisation of its ethanol plant to around 70 percent this year, backed by increased sugar output.
Hippo Valley, THZ’s local unit, is currently operating its ethanol plant at 50 percent of its installed capacity of 41 million litres per annum, according to company spokesperson Adelaide Chikunguru.
“We project 70 percent capacity utilisation in the current year, representing an increase of 28 million litres in 2016/17 up from 20 million litres in 2015/16,” she in an emailed response to The Source.
The country’s blending threshold is currently at E15 and Green Fuel, a joint venture between the government’s Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) and businessman Billy Rautenbach’s Macdom and Rating Investments, is the country’s sole licensed producer of ethanol for blending purposes. It has struggled to meet demand.
THZ is still seeking clearance from authorities to become an independent ethanol producer. The company has been producing through a temporary licence.
Chikunguru said an application was lodged with the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) to enable the company to produce fuel-grade ethanol for the domestic market.
Hippos’ ethanol production has over the years been averaging 21 million litres per year.
Tongaat Hullets sugar operations in Zimbabwe consist of Triangle and a 50,3 percent stake in Hippo Valley Estates, representing a combined installed sugar milling capacity of more than 640,000 tonnes.
The group’s operations recorded a 21 percent decline in revenue in the year to March and the group attributed the performance to poor growing conditions as a result of low rainfall and restricted irrigation levels and to a lesser extent electricity unavailability.
However, total industry sugar production for the 2016/17 season is estimated between 379,000 tonnes and 440,000 tonnes compared to 412,000 tonnes produced in the 2015/16 season.