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Ethiopia avails Ethiopia sugar all year round to the local and export markets. Ten years ago the country earmarked an ambitious plan targeting to be the leading export source for sugar and particularly to neighboring East African countries. Smallholder farmers contribute a huge chunk of the entire national produce. It is estimated that 997,240 households farm the crop on land approximated to measure 22,388.48 hectares.
The country targets to have its annual sugar production averaging at seven million quintals a year. The government has been providing farmers with selected seeds of improved breeds to boost national yields. Parts of Wakie Tiyo, Welenchiti and North Dodota are some of the primary sources for raw fresh sugar cane.
Sugarcane, a primary source of sugar, is native New Guinea. Guineans were the first to domesticate the crop approximately ten thousand years ago. The plant was then introduced to Southeast Asia and South China before finding its way to India who prides themselves with the processing of the sugar cane to extract sugar for the first time. They used many methods to remove sugar from the sugar cane including chewing it before finally learning to crystallize the juice to make sugar. They later spread this knowledge to other countries, and that is how the rest of the world adopted sugar production. New technologies have been discovered ever since which have managed to improve manufacturing processes.
Ethiopia produced 320,000 metric tons of processed sugar in 2017. The figure fell short of the government’s expectations which prompted importation of sugar to half the deficit. Low production than expected was cited as the main reason with unfriendly weather conditions hampering yields a great deal. This year the plan is to have the annual national production of sugar reach 400,000 metric tons.
It has projected an increase in yields across the country which could see the production of a sufficient volume of sugar, which will meet domestic consumption with the surplus being availed for the international markets.
Not only does Ethiopia want to produce enough sugar but the country also prioritizing becoming a major agro-processing hub and sugar production is a vital component of that goal. In conjunction with increasing sugarcane yields, the state is keen to revitalize its manufacturing companies and construct new ones. This will help Ethiopia sugar volume rise to 700,000 metric tons thus enable them to not only avail enough processed sugar to the domestic market but also for export.
Ethiopia sugar is available in various forms. They are:
• Bulk Raw Sugar-It shipped to buyers in its raw form. They refine it and sell it to whole sellers and retailers.
• Refined Sugar-Usually shipped to customers after undergoing the refining process. It is ready for use.
• Unrefined sugars-Although it has undergone several procedures it still retains natural nutrients of sugar such as magnesium, calcium, and iron.
Uses of sugar
Ethiopia sugar mostly serves to sweeten foods in the country as well as on the global stage. It is also used in the processing of food-related products. Other products where sugar comes in handy include jams, beverages, and ice creams.
For the raw fresh sugarcane locals chew it, use it to their livestock and also sell it to generate income.
Ethiopia sugar cane is extensively grown in the Peoples’ Regional State (SNNPR), and Southern Nations Nationalities which is estimated to be 52.4% of the total land set aside for the growth of sugarcane in the country.
Conditions in these regions are adept for the crop’s growth. Sugar cane does well in tropical, sunny but wet conditions. It is characterized by a height between 4-6 meters and thick stems. Rainfall should range between 1100-1500 mm and a relative humidity of 80%-85%.
Farmers are on the look-out for weed especially during the early stages of growth because it could hamper the development of the young sprouts.
The plant takes 10-18 months to mature and be ready for harvest depending on the variety grown.
Manual-Hand knives and cutting blades are used to harvest the cane. However, only skilled laborers are allowed to harvest to avoid loss of yields and the damaging of the cane.
Mechanical- Mechanical harvesters are driven along the rows of sugar cane. They strip the leaves and cut the cane stalks into small pieces called billets which are then put in bins. Billets are loaded into bins which are dragged along by the harvester and immediately they are filled with billets they are either placed by the fields or transported to the sugar mill directly.
Post-harvest and processing
After harvesting sugar cane stalks are cleaned, cut then placed in a shredding machine where they are ground. An exercise of spraying hot water on the sugarcane follows which serves to dissolve any hard sugar remaining then pushed onto the conveyer belt where the juice is extracted from the pulp. The raw juice is mixed with milk and carbon dioxide before being boiled.
The juice is purified, put in a vacuum, boiled at a relatively low temperature which makes it evaporate- thick yellow syrup is obtained then undertaken through the clarifying process that also serves to remove any impurities from the subsequent juice. The juice is crystalized leading to the formation of crystals which are spun using a centrifuge a process which separates the crystals from molasses. The latter are boiled again for further crystallization and dried to produce raw sugar. Molasses is obtained from de-sugaring the initial gummy syrup. The residue- obtained from separating sugar from molasses via the centrifuge is usually dried.
The sugar is packed in bags that vary in size-50 or 100 kilograms.
It is stored in the warehouses and readied for shipment or selling to the local market.
The bags have vital details inscribed on them that include the weight, company name and manufacturing details.
The government’s involvement and the high interest it has shown in the sector have impacted positively in sugar productivity. For instance, its provision of selected and improved seeds to sugarcane farmers has not only enhanced yields but also the quality of the cane. The renovated and introduction of modern sugar manufacturing companies have seen the country bring forth sugar of excellent quality. You get the feeling that sugar production can only get better in the horn of Africa.
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