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05 June 2016

Komenda Factory will produce more propaganda than sugar – Kofi Bentil

The Komenda Sugar FactoryA policy expert Kofi Bentil says the Komenda Sugar factory revamped by the Mahama government is doomed to fail because it is not backed by economic sense.

According to him, the factory is more likely to serve the government’s propaganda purposes months to the November 2016 elections than boost the economy.

The government is facing a deluge of criticism after the Komenda Sugar Factory was shut down, barely 48 hours after President Mahama commissioned it amid pomp and pageantry.

The President described the revamping as a resurrection of the dream of Ghana’s first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

Dr Kwame Nkrumah built the factory in 1966. It ceased operations 1981 and later liquidated in 1998 under NDC government for about 5,100 cedis. But the latest shut down has been explained by government as part of a maintenance schedule to last six months.

Deputy Agricultural minister Ahmed Yakubu Alhasan on Newsfile Saturday said the shut down was because the raw material, sugar cane, has entered its lean farming season.

He said the plant had been operating even before the president commissioned it and therefore it would not be accurate to say the plant was shut down only two days after it began operations.

He said a lack of maintenance is the reason why the factory finally closed down in 1981, making the case that shutting it down for maintenance is therefore an efficient way to ensure the plant would last longer.

But two other contributors to the news analysis show, IMANI Vice-President Kofi Bentil and Minority spokesperson on Agriculture Dr. Owusu Afriyie, strongly rejected the government’s explanation.

“There is no truth in what the minister is saying that the factory needs maintenance after one week of production” Kofi Bentil said on Newsfile.

He said the business model is unconvincing because the sugar produced at Komenda is more likely to be expensive than the imported commodity. “It is a baffling to us to spend scarce resources to put up a factory which almost has no chance of success” he said.

According to the IMANI Vice-President, Ghana needs to develop a whole sugar value chain which will require much more investment than the cost of putting up the plant.

Minority spokesperson on Agriculture Dr. Owusu Afriyie also believes that poor planning will be the bane of the factory.

He wondered how government was going to get 1,200 metric tones of raw sugar cane needed to feed the factory at full capacity.

“1,200metric tonnes a day, translated into nearly 140,000 tonnes of sugar cane [in a year] and that’s a lot of sugar cane. Who is going to produce that when you leave that to chance?”

He said even at full capacity that factory cannot solve the country’s sugar importation which President Mahama put at $200million.

He said the Komenda Sugar Factory if it works at full capacity throughout the year will only cut down Ghana’s import bill by about 100,000 tonnes. Ghana imports 440,000.

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