Luapula ethanol plant to reduce oil imports-Lungu

PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu says the setting up of a cassava bioenergy ethanol project in Luapula Province will reduce dependency on imported fuel in Zambia.

And President Lungu has assured workers at Kawambwa Tea Company that Government would pay their salary arrears after Khumul Holdings, a Zimbabwean company that owned the firm, abandoned it in 2011.

He said Zambia’s dependency on foreign oil will reduce once the project started its full operation in 2017 and would contribute up to 20 percent of the total quantities of fuel consumed in Zambia.

He said this yesterday during the ground breaking and commissioning of the first-ever US$190 million bioethanol project by Sunbird Bioenergy Africa in Kawambwa.

He said Government was grateful to Sunbird for coming up with an initiative to produce over 120 million litres of ethanol each year.

He said the project was in line with Government’s initiative to diversify the economy from copper dependency, adding that Government had allocated 20,000 hectares of land in the Luena farm block because of the importance it attached to the project.

“This project will enable us to substitute imported petroleum products. In addition, the project is poised to create a market for cassava formalising over 20,000 local farmers and this is besides the direct job opportunities for our own people in the surrounding area,” President Lungu said.

He said Government was happy that once completed, the project will empower cassava farmers in the province as it would provide a ready market for their produce, while the company would also create an outgrower scheme for local farmers.

And company chief executive officer Richard Bennett said his company was ready to buy all the cassava produced in the province while investing to double up production in the province.

Mr. Bennett said his company was indebted to Government for showing commitment for doing business with the private sector from the time the company tendered its proposal to invest in energy.

And addressing Kawambwa Tea Company workers earlier in the day, President Lungu directed the Ministry of Finance to disbursed funds to pay the affected employees their December salaries as a starter before the programme to clear their arrears was effected.

He was impressed with the character of the workers at the company who had sacrificed so much to work without pay just because of their passion to see the company continued its operations.

He said the workers at the company had demonstrated that there were still Zambians who were passionate and selfless towards keeping their firms running.