President Joaquim Chissano has commended the efforts of the country's sugar sector to modernise and market its produce, but has warned that it should be aware of the challenges ahead.
Speaking on 6 June during the official relaunching of production at the Xinavane sugar plant, in the Manhica district of Maputo province, President Chissano said that some of the challenges include improving quality and competitiveness.
Another challenge is to maximise the sector's socio-economic impact, through a greater integration with the communities in sugar cane production, improvement of the employees' working conditions, and the establishment of partnerships with national consumers and with potential suppliers of services and inputs.
In 2002, Mozambique produced 171,000 tonnes of sugar in the four operating plants, namely Maragara and Xinavane, in Maputo, and Mafambisse and Marromeu, in Sofala province, and has also resumed production of refined sugar.
President Chissano said that last year's production levels brought the country back to self-sufficiency. As an exporter of sugar, the sugar sector is once again set to be a major contributor in the country's balance of payments. "The production estimates for the present year are 240,000 tonnes of sugar which, if met, will be equal to that of 1975, when the then existing six factories (including those of Buzi and Luabo) were operating in full", he said.
The National Sugar Institute says that the now operating four factories are giving direct employment to about 20,000 workers, and their activity has been creating indirect jobs, through a number of national companies that have been opening, to render services to the sugar industry.
President Chissano commended the sugar companies, saying that they have been playing "with responsibility, their role in rural development in the country". He praised the involvement of the Xinavane sugar factory in the establishment of medium size and small sugar cane farms, of which an example is the Association of Maguiguana Farmers, that encompasses 63 farmers who, not long ago, were working in subsistence farming. Now, they are producing sugar cane in an irrigated area of 84 hectares. "This example, that culminated with a significant improvement of these farmers' income, should be encouraged and, if possible, multiplied in other sugar producing areas", he recommended.
Addressing a crowd that included local residents, managers, investors, and members of the government, President Chissano reiterated the determination of his government to continue efforts to ensure an environment favourable to the growth of the sugar sector, and to overcome the constraints that hinder its development.
He said that efforts will continue, to protect the national sugar industry, through the fight against illegal sugar imports and contraband, and the improvement of infrastructures in the rural areas, particularly the access roads.
Commenting on contraband and illegal imports, President Chissano described them as a way of unfair and unsustainable competition, that jeopardises all the efforts, and that should be fought against, if the national sugar industry is to attain its target sales. "Contraband is an ill that is causing damage, not only to the sugar industry, but to the entire national economy, and should, thus, be fought against", he said.
The relaunching of production in the Xinavane factory, is the culmination of a process that included the installation of new processing equipment, that cost $50 million, contributed by the Mozambican government, in partnership with the South African Tongaat Hullet Sugar Ltd.
With this new equipment, the Xinavane sugar factory has the capacity to produce 70,000 tonnes of sugar a year, but the target for the present campaign is of about 52,300 tonnes.
The invested money also went into restarting and extending the sugar cane production areas, where new technologies were introduced for the land levelling, with the use of a laser system.
The rehabilitation of the four factories, namely Maragra, Xinavane, Mafambisse, and Marromeu, took an investment of $300 million.
Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB), the company that operates the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi in the western province of Tete, has won the tender launched in March by the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi, to supply Malawi with electricity for a 20 year period as from 2004.
The Malawian company will be responsible for the transmission line from the dam town of Songo to the Malawian commercial capital of Blantyre, and will have to seek the necessary funding. The cost is estimated at $80 million. Work on building the lines will begin in late 2003, and should be concluded in 2004.
HCB will eventually supply Malawi with up to 300 megawatts of power, though it will start with just 100 megawatts.
Malawian demand for power has been steadily growing, and in 1998 a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Mozambican and Malawian governments on the interconnection of the electricity grids of the two countries.
The Agriculture Ministry has proved unable to spend the $202 million originally planned for PROAGRI, the country's five year agricultural development programme, reports "Noticias" on 9 June.
This is the last year of PROAGRI, and current estimates are that the total expenditure of the programme will be no higher than $150 million. The problem is attributed to "management problems" in the first two years of the programme, when much less was spent than the projected $40 million a year.
At a meeting at the beginning of June between PROAGRI donors and managers Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia said that his ministry has been making organisational efforts to use the $202 million made available by the donors over the five year period.
He explained that "at the beginning we could not make use of even half of the money available for every year, because our financial management system was not adjusted. We faced difficulties because the donors would not trust our financial management system".
Despite the recent improvements, Muteia admitted "Of the planned $202 million we will not go beyond the $150 million mark, because of the first years when we failed to use the available resources".
The Agriculture Ministry has drawn up a positive balance sheet of its performance during PROAGRI, and believes that the successor programme, simply entitled PROAGRI-II, which is now under discussion, will benefit from an improved management system and more trust on the part of the donors.
Muteia stressed that the question of land tenure was "one of the most important challenges" faced in implementing PROAGRI.
Muteia said land tenure "is an area where courageous decisions have been and are still being taken on a basis of reflection and mutual consultation about the approach that will best serve the country, the people, the peasant farmers, and those bodies which need land for their development".
At the same time, he added, the Ministry was working "so that peasants may have increased access to technologies adequate to their various agro-ecological and socio-cultural realities".
Discussions were therefore under way on the creation of "a research and technology producing unit" that would be in line with the objective reality of Mozambique. Muteia wanted to see the various research institutes in agriculture, forestry, livestock and veterinary science come together in a single body subordinate to his ministry.
The foreign donors who finance PROAGRI have warned that financial problems are threatening the programme.
Speaking in Maputo on 3 June the spokesperson for the donors, Scott Simmons, said that after making considerable progress in financial management in earlier years, in 2003 "financial problems are back on the agenda".
The financing of PROAGRI rests on a memorandum of understanding signed in 2001 between the Agriculture Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the donors - and this year all three partners have been violating that agreement.
"The performance of each co-signatory is important for the performance of the others", said Simmons. "But currently the rules established in the Memorandum of Understanding are being broken - by the Finance Ministry in holding onto the money, by the Agriculture Ministry in not supplying necessary information in due time, and by donors in delays in disbursements".
The key problem, he argued, was the delay in the Finance Ministry channelling the donor funds to the Agriculture Ministry. "This problem is most critical at the beginning of the year, at the peak of agricultural activity in Mozambique", Simmons added. "Without funds in January, February, and March, the Agriculture Ministry is seriously compromised".
Worse still, "without good performance in the agricultural sector, Mozambique may not meet its poverty relief targets", he pointed out. "Contracts are not being paid, and delays continue to mount up", he said. "The credibility of the Agriculture Ministry, as a client, is under threat at provincial and central levels".
He attacked the government's new financial procedures under which, if any money budgeted for a ministry is not used by the end of the year, it cannot carry over into the first quarter of the next year, but is sent back to the Treasury.
Simmons praised the Agriculture Ministry for strengthening its own budgetary system, "but the budget is still being altered arbitrarily by the Finance Ministry, without warning and with serious impact on the Agriculture Ministry's activities".
He said that provincial budgets for 2003 had been "changed at random", which "endangers the credibility of the Agriculture Ministry in relation to the provincial and district partners involved in planning and budgeting".
"I would like to make it clear that, when I say that financial problems are threatening PROAGRI, I do not mean poor management of funds by the Agriculture Ministry", Simmons stressed. "In reality, the strengthening of this ministry's financial management has been an important success for the programme. The current problem has to do with budgets, budget ceilings, and the flow of funds".
Simmons warned that "PROAGRI 2" cannot be designed without definitively solving the financial issues
The first of five training courses in criminal investigation, supported by the United States government, began on 26 May at the Mozambican police academy (ACIPOL), at Michafutene, on the outskirts of Maputo.
The course, lasting for two weeks, is for 300 people, mostly police officers and ACIPOL cadets, but including ten attorneys from the Public Prosecutor's Office. They will be trained, in five batches of 60 each, in basic criminal investigation techniques. The course, entitled "Initial Response to Crime Scenes", is administered by two law enforcement officers from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
US assistance to ACIPOL complements programmes involving the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Spain, Switzerland, Portugal, Holland and Germany.
The Mozambican agricultural authorities are reporting a two percent growth in grain production in the country in the 2002/2003 agricultural campaign, despite severe drought across the southern and parts of the central provinces.
The Food Security Early Warning Department, at the Agriculture Ministry, puts this year's grain harvest at 1.81 million tonnes, an increase of two percent on the 2002 figure. As for the most important non-grain food crop, cassava, production is put at 6.1 million tonnes, an increase of four percent.
Mario Ubisse, of the Early Warning Department, attributed the growth in the grain harvest, despite the bad weather, to the large areas planted, particularly in the northern provinces. He said that peasant farmers planted four million hectares with crops country wide, of which about two million were for grain, one million for cassava and the remainder for vegetables.
Ubisse said that natural disasters - notably the storms that hit northern Mozambique at the start of the year, and cyclone Japhet, which hit Inhambane province in March - destroyed 237,000 hectares of planted crops.
At the start of the 2002/03 campaign, meteorologists had forecast high probabilities of above normal rainfall in the northern and southern regions during the period between October and December 2002, and normal rainfall in the central region during the same period. For the period between January and March this year, forecasts were of normal to above normal rainfall in the northern region, and normal to below normal in the central and southern regions.
However, reality showed that in the south and centre of the country, the rains came late, and were irregularly distributed, with some areas remaining completely dry, while the north had excessive rainfall.
The final result is that the north has a grain surplus, while some parts of the centre and south are facing hunger. But the problem with bringing surplus food from the north to the south is the enormous distances involved and the poor state of the roads, which impose enormous transport costs.
Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Castigo Langa, has expressed disappointment with a severe drop in the price of minerals on the world market, which prejudices the country's economy, reports "Noticias" on 29 May.
"All efforts to rehabilitate the country's mining industry since the end of the war of destabilisation, in 1992, are being seriously prejudiced by the recent recession in the world market, aggravated by the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States", he said.
To illustrate his point, Langa said that, for instance, the price of tantalite has plummeted from $300 a pound, in 1998, to just $28 this year. But he commended "the work done by the geology and mining sector at different levels to create the necessary conditions to attract investment".
Addressing the opening session of a meeting of his ministry's Coordinating Council on 28 May, Langa expressed satisfaction with the performance of his staff.
As one of the achievements that gave him great satisfaction, Langa mentioned the recent inauguration of the Marropino tantalite mine in the central province of Zambezia, which he described as "a first class world investment, of which Mozambicans should be proud".
Speaking of the project to mine titanium-bearing heavy sands at Moma in the northern province of Nampula, he said that "despite delays, we have to note positive developments, made public in the last few days: namely, the approval by the European Investment Bank of a €55 million loan for the project".
The meeting, taking place in Namaacha, on the border with Swaziland, about 75 kilometres west of Maputo, is drawing up a balance sheet of the activities undertaken out by the various sectors of Langa's ministry.
In the May road safety campaign, aimed at minibus-taxis and other forms of road passenger transport, the Mozambican authorities inspected 4,178 vehicles and seized 808 of them, according to an announcement issued on 4 June by the Transport Ministry's National Traffic Institute (INV).
Thus almost one in five of the passenger vehicles (known colloquially as "chapas") on Mozambican roads was mechanically defective, or lacking the legal documentation.
115 vehicles either had no insurance policy at all, or an outdated one. A further 116 were on the roads without a licence for passenger transport, with a forged licence, or with an outdated licence. There were another 39 vehicles that had neither a licence nor insurance.
66 of the vehicles' drivers were found to be using forged drivers' licences. But the commonest offence was that drivers had licences for normal, private motoring, but not the public service licence required for anyone driving a passenger vehicle - 214 of the drivers fell into this category.
Despite the large-scale violations of the law revealed by this exercise, only 23 people were arrested for illegal driving.
The owners of the vehicles have claimed 673 of them, after meeting the legal requirements (such as obtaining a licence or an insurance policy, or finding a driver with the requisite kind of driving licence). That leaves 135 vehicles still held by the traffic police.
With every passing day, recovering them becomes more expensive as police parking fees mount up. Vehicles that have not been recovered within 90 days of their seizure will revert to the state.
The INV statement declared that the operation was intended to encourage the owners of passenger vehicles "to operate legally, and to draw a line between those who respect the law and those who compete unfairly" (since the unlicensed or uninsured vehicles have lower costs than those that work within the law).
The INV promised that the campaign to remove illegal passenger vehicles from the roads would continue, as part of the broader road safety campaign waged under the slogan "No Blood on our Roads".
The United States-based International Cooperation for Projects Abroad is set to sign an agreement with the Nacala Corridor Development Society (SDCN) in Washington on 26 June under which it is to grant $30 million for the rehabilitation of the Nacala port and railway system, in the northern province of Nampula, reports "Noticias" on 6 June.
Transport and Communications Minister Tomas Salomao said that the signing of the document will mark the take over by SDCN, a consortium made up of a number of Mozambican companies, of the management of the Nacala port and the railway running between the port and the neighbouring Malawi, and also linking it to Lichinga, the capital of the northern Niassa province, in a stretch of 600 kilometres.
Salomao said that a ceremony to mark the official take over by the SDNC is to take place in the coming few days, in the port city of Nacala. He said that the SDNC's immediate action after the receiving of the promised funds will be the rehabilitation of the railway system, and the purchasing of new wagons. "But, most of all, it is important to stress the work of purchasing and installation of equipment to handle efficiently all the cargo entering the Nacala port, rehabilitating the entire port infrastructures and equipping them in accordance with the international standards, and also purchasing new trains, which is being negotiated with Austrian companies", he said.
Salomao said that privatising the management of the Nacala corridor is essential if the port is to take a leading place in the handling of container cargo in Southern Africa.
The Maputo Judicial Court has scheduled for June the trial of seven police officers accused of facilitating the escape of Anibal dos Santos Junior, alias "Anibalzinho", from the maximum security jail in Maputo, shortly before the trial in the case of assassination of the investigative journalist Carlos Cardoso.
The accused are Alberto Sitoe, former commander of the Casa Militar (a presidential guard unit), Bufalo Matos, commander of the riot police, who were in charge of two of the three keys to Anibalzinho's cell, Joaquim Pequenino, police inspector, who was on duty on the day of the escape, plus four others, whose names were not revealed.
"Noticias" on 5 June cites court sources as saying that the judge is yet to fix the date for the trial, that is to take place in Matola, about 15 kilometres west Maputo, since the jail falls under the provincial, not the Maputo city jurisdiction. Maputo provincial attorney Arone Nhaca confirmed the announcement.
Anibalzinho is described as the main link between the masterminds and the executors of the assassination of Carlos Cardoso on 22 November 2000. He escaped from prison on 1 September 2002, but was recaptured in South Africa and extradited to Maputo on 30 January 2003, the day the sentences of the accused were read out. Anibalzinho was tried in absentia and sentenced to 28 years in prison.
The court source acknowledged the possibility that Anibalzinho may be called to testify in the trial of those police officers and clarify the circumstances of his escape.
During the investigations of this case, 11 policemen were interviewed, four of whom were acquitted by the prosecution, for lack of evidence of their involvement.
The Algerian government has donated 12,000 tonnes of rice in support of the victims of drought in the central provinces of Mozambique.
The consignment was delivered by the Algerian Ambassador in the port city of Beira on 2 June, at a ceremony where the Mozambican government was represented by the director of the country's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute, Silvano Langa.
Alongside the donation for Mozambique, another consignment of 6,000 tonnes of rice was unloaded in Beira, but for the victims of the same natural disaster in the neighbouring countries of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.
Langa described the gesture as testimony to the relations of friendship and cooperation between the peoples of Southern Africa and of Algeria.
Like other countries in the region, Mozambique is facing a serious food crisis, due to two consecutive years of drought, in the south and centre of the country. In the central region alone, there are about 300,000 people affected by the drought, while the figure for the entire country is estimated at 650,000.
Langa said that this food aid will be channelled to those in need through the "food for work" programme, that covers 20 districts in the four provinces of the central region, namely Sofala, Tete, Manica, and Zambezia.
The Attorney General's Anti-Corruption Unit has installed phone lines for any citizen to use in denouncing corruption activities that come to their knowledge.
The lines, with the numbers 48 66 351 and (082) 794477, and fax 48 63 52, are to facilitate the access of the public to the anti-corruption unit without having to travel to its offices.
Mozambique News Agency
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