SWEET SUCCESS

Zambia 2014 | AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Rebecca Katowa, Managing Director of Zambia Sugar, on the main drivers of growth and staying sustainable.

Rebecca Katowa
BIOGRAPHY
Rebecca Katowa is a professional marketer with the Chartered Institute of Marketing (UK). She joined Zambia Sugar in 1997 as Marketing Services Manager and rose through the ranks to her current position as Marketing Director of Zambia Sugar.

Your revenues are up 16% in YoY terms. what have been the main drivers of this growth?

The key drivers have been strong economic fundamentals coupled with our technical expertise in sugar cane growing and sugar production, optimisation of factory throughput and sugar recoveries, continuous improvement initiatives across our business, effective market penetration strategies in both the domestic and export markets, investment in employees training, talent management and welfare and adherence to the Company's high safety and environmental management standards which ensures sustainability of our operations. Our vision is to be a diversified world-class, market leading business that contributes to economic growth and the prosperity of its shareholders, employees and communities.

What strategies do you follow in order to achieve a sustainable growth?

The company's strategic plan focuses on diversification through value addition to its sugar products as key to its continued sustainability. We also believe that the long term sustainability of our business depends on our being a good corporate citizen, operating in a responsible, accountable and transparent manner. Furthermore, the management of our costs through embedding a continuous improvement culture and programs across all our operations and activities is key to achieving sustainable growth.

Around 90% of the energy that Illovo, a major shareholder in Zambia Sugar, uses to grow the crop is renewable. Is that the same for Zambia Sugar?

Zambia Sugar is focused on adding value to every stick of cane. Sugar cane offers excellent opportunities and competitive advantages for the production of renewable energy sources compared to other agricultural crops. The major element of the energy consumed within our operation is sourced from renewable resources. As a by product of sugar production, bagasse is used to fire our boilers for steam and power generation.

What differentiates Zambia Sugar products from its competition?

Zambia Sugar adheres to stringent and detailed standards with regard to its production processes and is thus able to produce quality sugar and downstream products that satisfy customer requirements in the domestic and export markets. Marketed under the well established Whitespoon brand, Zambia Sugar through its effective marketing and distribution strategies supports the nation by ensuring sugar is available country wide thus contributing positively to society. The company also prides itself on its focused customer service, reliability of supply and continuous investment in enhancing value in the supply chain. Furthermore our standards and practices in terms of health and safety are exemplary.

What percentage of your products are consumed locally versus exported?

The domestic market accounts for about 41% of total sales volumes while the export markets namely the EU and the Region accounts for the balance 59%.

The government is improving the quality of the Railway system and adding more capacity, how will this impact your business?

Improvements in road and rail infrastructure will have a positive impact on our business as this will enable the company to distribute its products more cost effectively.

What is your outlook on Zambia Sugar in the next five to ten years?

Zambia Sugar has been investing in operations, and positioning the company for sustained growth. Between 2007 and 2009, we made significant investments in expanding both agriculture and factory operations, doubling the capacity from around 200 000 tons of sugar to the current installed capacity of 440 000 tons. The process of optimising operations is ongoing and record sugar production of 404 000 was achieved in 2012. The focus in the coming years is to improve reliability and throughput of the factory, diversify our revenue base and ensure sustainability of our business. To this effect Zambia Sugar will be embarking on a second phase of the Nakambala expansion project from 2015. This second expansion phase will include the construction of a Refinery to meet the growing industrial sugar demand in both the domestic and export market and a distillery for potable and fuel Ethanol production.