Sugarcane farmers are expecting an average output of 100 tonnes of raw sugar per hectare up from 95 tonnes produced last year, an official said yesterday.

Commercial Sugarcane Producers Association of Zimbabwe (CSPAZ) chair Tawanda Mafurutu said the increase in yield was made possible by the availability of water to irrigate sugarcane.

“We are expecting an increase in yield this year compared to last year. Initially we had projected 97 tonnes per hectare but we have since reviewed it upwards to 100 tonnes,” he said.

Water rationing has been one of the major setbacks in sugarcane production in Zimbabwe.

Mr Mafurutu said harvesting of sugarcane would start before the end of May. “If all goes according to plan the Triangle mill will start running on May 15 while the Hippo Mill will start milling on May 29,” he said.

Sugarcane is grown commercially in the south eastern parts of Zimbabwe which include Chisumbanje, Nyanyadzi and Chiredzi.

Prior to the land reform programme in early 2000, sugarcane production was a preserve of Tongaat Hullet, a South African company that still controls the milling and marketing of the crop a situation which new farmers are challenging saying its monopolistic.

Sugar is Zimbabwe’s second largest foreign currency earner in agriculture after tobacco.

Part of the raw sugar produced in Zimbabwe is processed locally at Tongaat Hullets in Chiredzi and Gold Star Sugars in Harare.

The remainder is exported to the European Union. — New Ziana.