The Komenda Sugar Factory, set up to provide 7,300 direct and indirect jobs, remains shut, two years after its inauguration.
Sugar cane farmers and the people of the Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abirem municipality in the Central Region are hoping against hope that efforts by the Ministry of Trade and Industry to reactivate the multi-million dollar factory will bear fruits.
The enthusiasm among farmers that they will get a ready market for their produce at the factory is fast waning.
The chiefs and people of the area feel disappointed with the current situation, as the government still cannot concretely tell them when the factory will start operations.
The Komenda Sugar Factory, built at a cost of $35 million from an Indian Exim Bank facility, was inaugurated by then President John Dramani Mahama in May 2016, amid pomp and ceremony.
The factory has the capacity to crush 1,250 tonnes of sugar cane per day
The country spends about $200 million to import sugar annually and the new factory was expected to change the situation.
Ghana’s annual sugar requirement, as of 2016, was estimated at 375,000 tonnes.
The factory was also expected to generate energy for its production activities and produce by-products such as molasses for the alcohol industry.
But many challenges, including the unreliable supply of sugar cane for continuous processing after the preliminary test run, stifled the operations of the company, leading to its closure a few weeks after its inauguration.
In November 2017, the government initiated processes to revive operations of the factory.
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Alan Kyerematen, told Parliament that a US$24.5-million Indian Exim Bank credit facility was being secured to develop and implement a plantation and outgrower scheme in a bid to provide raw materials for the factory.
The scheme was to see the cultivation of some 14,100 acres of sugar cane to feed the plant.
But delays in the release of funds for the growing of the sugar cane has turned the plant into a white elephant, producing no sugar and disappointing desperate job seekers.
Meanwhile, researchers from the University of Cape Coast (UCC) say the factory is not likely to become operational any time soon.
A study on the factory indicated that it needed close to 300,000 metric tonnes of sugar cane to become fully operational.
The Principal Investigator, Dr David Oscar Yawson, who gave a report on the findings of the research, titled: ‘Assessment of Sustainable Feedstock Supply to the Komenda Sugar Factory’ at a stakeholders’ forum in Cape Coast in February 2018, said the factory was nowhere near readiness to begin operations.
He indicated that within that boundary limit, the factory could mobilise only 16,000 tonnes of sugar cane, which was less than 10 per cent of what the 300,000-tonne capacity factory needed to run on an annual basis.
Dr Yawson said it was not possible for the factory to mobilise 10 per cent of its raw material needs within the industrial recommended 40-mile radius of the factory.
That, he said, was worrying, adding that if nothing urgent was done to ensure the supply of raw materials, the factory could be a “white elephant” for a long time.
In December 2017, a Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Robert Ahomka-Lindsay, said the government was to commit the operations of the factory to a viable and reliable investor.
He said the factory, like others to be started under the government’s One-district, One-factory programme, would be managed by a private investor.
So far, he said, six investors had expressed interest in running the company and gave an assurance that the ministry was working hard to ensure that the factory did not close down again when it resumed operations.
He noted that the ministry was also working with some universities and research institutions on developing the right sugar cane varieties for cultivation.
He said the government was steadfastly working to ensure that the right economic environment was created for the private sector to work to speed up the creation of jobs for the nation’s teeming unemployed youth.
But some sugar cane farmers told the Daily Graphic that they were hopeful something concrete could be done immediately to keep their hopes alive.