ADDIS ABABA – Sugar has not been long present on Ethiopian tables. In fact, producers say that sugar production and consumption is only 60 years old in the African country – but they also believe their country has the potential to become one of the continent`s major producers of cane and sugar.
"Sugar consumption that dated back to the BC epoch found its way into Ethiopian households only lately; people had to be convinced," Zemedkun Tekle, communications director at the state-run Ethiopian Sugar Corporation, told Anadolu Agency.
"Local [national] consumption currently stands at 500,000 tons per year," Tekle said. "But this amount is small compared to that consumed in neighboring Kenya."
With its 48 million-strong population, about half of Ethiopia`s population size, neighboring Kenya consumes some 800,000 tons of sugar annually, according to Tekle.
"Affluence, culture and awareness determine the amount of sugar a country`s population consumes," Tekle believes. "The more developed a country is, the more sugar its population consumes."
But Ethiopia`s recent accomplishments – both in terms of sugar cane production and sugar manufacturing and refining – are "nothing short of impressive," said Tekle.
Today, sugar in Ethiopia is a multibillion-dollar industry, with a 25 billion birr budget (some $1.3 billion) this year alone. In the coming few years, the country hopes to become one of Africa`s leading sugar exporters.
"Sugar Corporation is working to realize the country`s plan to export 658,200 tons of sugar next year," Tekle said, referring to Ethiopia`s five-year development roadmap – dubbed the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) – the first phase of which will expire in 2015/16.
The GTP-I envisaged construction of ten sugar farms and refineries in different parts of the country.
"We will have completed seven of the ten sugar manufacturing plants by the end of the plan period," Tekle said. "The remaining three will roll over to the GTP-II."
"Upon completion of the ten sugar plants, the country will have a production capacity of 1.5 million tons of sugar, residue from which will be used to produce 212,000 cubic meters of ethanol," he said.
The GTP forecasts that these sugar industries will employ 200,000 people directly, while creating numerous indirect job opportunities.
But the plan will come at a cost. Recent reports suggest that the plant in the Kuraz Sugar Development Project in the South Ethiopian Peoples` State – still under construction – had caused the displacement of local people, an allegation dismissed by Tekle.
"The people there are pastoralists who go from place to place in search of water and pastures," he said.
"In fact, whenever there was a need to resettle people from sugar development sites in other regions, it [resettlement] was conducted in close consultation with affected societies," he added.
According to Tekle, they were resettled to "better" areas in which there were irrigation schemes, schools and clinics.
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