Sugar production in South Africa has recently declined, owing to factors such as climate change and the high cost of production, says information tech- nology (IT) services and specialised solu- tions provider Adapt IT, which adds that there is potential for growth in the industry that could come from cogeneration.
Adapt IT CEO Sbu Shabalala states that, from a power cogeneration perspective, cogeneration can enable sugar producers to assist South Africa in stabilising the energy market.
“Power generation in South Africa remains stressed. Cogeneration agreements with State-owned entity Eskom is an area where the sugar industry in South Africa can increase earnings by selling power back to the electricity grid,” he says.
Shabalala states that ethanol production also presents potential for significant growth in the African sugar industry.
“The production of ethanol is an increasing trend that is steadily growing in the rest of Africa. It is a recent development and more countries throughout Africa are gearing towards ethanol production,” he says, adding that Kenya and Tanzania are leaders in this regard, with several greenfield projects under way in those countries.
Adapt IT provides IT solutions and services for the automation of the sugar milling process for South Africa’s largest sugar manufacturer, Illovo Sugar, which has 13 sugar plantations throughout Africa, a sugar refinery in Louisiana, in the US, sugar-cane-based renewable-energy company Addax Bioengery, in Sierra Leone, and sugar producer Tanganyika Planting Company, in Tanzania.
“We provide the systems that enable sugar operators to work. We look at all the aspects of sugar production, from cane growing right through to sales and distribution,” notes Shabalala.
He explains that the company uses customised enterprise resource planning (ERP) software technology to improve cost effectiveness and efficiency.
“The process spans the recording of sucrose levels using our laboratory systems and the weighing of sugar cane provided by the growers, using our weighbridge solutions, through to managing the sugar production process using our production processes management software. We also provide sugar production office management, which includes financial management, using our ERP solution to facilitate monthly reporting, through to sugar sales and distribution using the sales and distribution management system,” Shabalala says.
He states that the advantage of using the software is the elimination of unnecessary expenses that have gone unnoticed, as the systems facilitate a low-cost production environment.
“The ERP software is also cost effective, as it does not need further customisation for the sugar industry,” he says.
Further, Shabalala notes that the company has recruited software engineers from the sugar industry to ensure that its products are developed according to the requirements of the sugar industry.
“We update and improve our software regu- larly and are in the process of ensuring that warehouse management systems are improved by incorporating mobile device management into all our warehousing systems,” he says.
State of the Industry
Shabalala notes that Adapt IT tracks the state of the African sugar industry, owing to its involvement in the sector, which goes beyond software.
“We regard ourselves as part of the sugar technology industry and as specialists in industry solution development,” he says, adding that the company has realised that the African sugar market is predominantly an export market.
“We find that Africa has low-cost production, compared with countries such as the US,” Shabalala says.
However, he notes that the South African industry is declining and one of the most challenging aspects has been to find sus- tainable sugar-cane growers.
“Owing to climate change, the sugar-cane-growing community in the country has shrunk. Therefore, over the years, raw sugar yield and the sucrose levels have been in decline, which has resulted in less sugar production than in previous years,” he says.
Shabalala explains that countries that are closer to the equator, however, are experiencing improved production levels because of the favourable growing climate – an environment in which sugar cane thrives.
“There is definitely potential for sugar cane yields in South Africa to improve with the help of fertilisation technology,” he says, noting that these technologies, when widely used, will assist in improving yearly yield.
Meanwhile, Shabalala states that the company wants to extend its reach into the Brazilian market in the foreseeable future.
“We are definitely looking to grow our business by having a presence in all sugar-producing regions to become a global sugar solutions provider,” he concludes.