American and Chinese companies are set to invest R940-million in Limpopo to pursue renewable energy and ethanol profits, government and investors have announced.
The United States’ Bio-Processing Innovation and the Beijing Singling Technology Centre said on Tuesday that they had discovered a market for sweet sorghum and related products in Asia.
Representative for both companies, who are in partnership, Newton Baloyi said the two companies aimed to increase sweet sorghum despite recent drought conditions which saw the production of sorghum declining.
The project, which encompasses production for sugar and the alternative energy source of ethanol, covers both land and the plant which should be established from 15 000 ha within a feasible radius.
“Therefore, the current raging drought should not be a major cause for concern for all those keen on injecting resources into sorghum production,” said Limpopo MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development Joy Matshokge.
“Some of the benefits of the project include the production of clean and renewable energy, flexibility to produce ethanol or sugar and valuable by-products,” said Matshokge.
She said the project, when completed, would unlock production and activate unproductive land into productive land.
She appealed to investors to invest in local farmers by imparting sweet sorghum farming skills to them.
Limpopo boasts an estimated 14 percent of the country’s total grain sorghum production.
Last year 16 000 ha of the Limpopo province’s total production output yielded 17 600 tons.
The area planted has increased from 14 000 ha in 2014, but the production output in 2015 was lower compared to 32 000 tons in 2014.
Matshokge said the decrease in production output was attributed to the tight grip of a devastating drought plaguing both the country and province.
However, she said she believed that the drought effects should not discourage investors.
“The outlook and prospects for sorghum farming are positive, because of the historical track record prior to the drought,” she said.
In the Sekhukhune District, the sorghum production covered close to 19 000 ha, in the Waterberg District an estimated 3 410 ha were covered, while in the Capricorn District at least 2,900 ha were covered.
The main production areas, Matshokge noted, were in Bela-Bela, Mookgopong, Elias Motsoaledi, Blouberg and Thabazimbi Local Municipality.
Just like most grains, the warm-weather crop is grown mostly in areas which are deemed too dry for maize.
Matshokge said that sorghum’s rainfall requirements of a range of 300 millilitres to 750 millilitres was suitable with those of both the country and province as the annual average rainfall was 450 millilitres.
The sorghum plant’s versatility is well-known and it is also renowned for its resilient qualities.