Minority in Parliament has said it supports efforts to revamp the Komenda Sugar Factory. It, however, said there were challenges that could militate against the smooth running of the company which the government, in its bid to score political points, had failed to keep in mind.
Presenting a tall list of problems that, in the Minority’s opinion would negatively affect operations of the company, the MP for Wenchi, Prof. George Gyan-Baffour, said the siting of the factory close to the sea could lead to expensive maintenance cost on the iron and steel components of the plant due to the salty sea breeze.
“This happened to the old plant and maintenance exacted a huge toll on the profitability of the factory. In those times, the plant had to be shut down every year to allow for the extraction of corroded matter from steel pipes.
The factory ought to have been located a bit further from the coastline,” he said.
Another issue, in his view, was the diversion of farm lands from the production of multi crop to the mono crop of sugarcane.
That, he said, presented the possibility of insecurity in the area, especially given the fact that the new factory was 25 per cent bigger than the old.
“President Mahama, at the inauguration of the revamped factory, said the government was in the process of developing a new national sugar policy. It is a typical John Mahama-led government case of placing the cart before the horse,” he said.
According to Prof Gyan-Baffour, sugarcane farming, as well as the process of producing sugar, was water dependent, adding that reliance on the galamsey-polluted Pra and Offin rivers would challenge the survival of the factory, as the mercury-poisoned water might contaminate the end product.
Again, he said, adequate irrigation of outgrower farms would determine the yield per acre, the sustenance of the interest of the farmers and hence the profitability and life of the factory
“The primary canal to feed the farms with irrigation water from the Pra River has long collapsed. It has not yet been rehabilitated. How are the farms going to be irrigated? If the yield should fall or if world sugar price should fall, farmers would require financial protection to keep the industry working.
“In this regard, the start-off offer price of GH¢60 per tonne is too low to sustain the interest of farmers in the business. These are early days yet but we need to get the basics right at this early outset,” he added.
Prof Gyan-Baffour said insufficient or irregular supply of sugarcane from the outgrower farms could jeopardise the capacity of the factory to engage in uninterrupted production.
Turning the spotlight on sugarcane harvesting, he said the industry practice was to burn the cane on site before cutting and transporting to the factory.
In these days of rampant destructive bushfires, he said, it was important to take steps to protect the communities from the overspill of bushfire and also from toxic smoke that might blow towards the settlements.
“In this regard, there is the need to provide fire tenders in the communities of production. These have not been done or perhaps not even thought of, yet it was found worthy to rush and inaugurate the project,” he said.
The Wenchi MP noted that one of the reasons which led to the collapse of the Asutsuare and the Komenda factories in the past was bad management and wondered what efforts had been put in place to ensure that that did not happen again.
He said the government needed to clarify the situation and ensure that good management was in place by, if possible, bringing in private sector partners to manage the entity.
He said although the plan was that the factory should produce about 80 per cent of its own power, currently it was going to rely on the national grid.
He noted that at this time of acute shortage of power and high electricity bills, “tariffs will soon bite unless some arrangement on subsidy is made to cushion the factory”.
Prof. Gyan-Baffour acknowledged the fact that the factory would provide excellent employment for Ghanaians but wondered whether Ghanaians should be happy about it when, 48 hours after the inauguration, it had emerged that the factory would shut down for six months and resume operations after that.
“When the euphoria for reviving the Komenda factory has died down, when the political blitz has abated, when the razzle-dazzle of the Komenda Sugar Factory has departed, Ghanaians will realise that it is not yet time to celebrate; it is not yet Uhuru. President John Dramani Mahama ought to have given serious thought to these matters before doing what he did last Monday,” he added.