South Nyanza Sugar Company has perfected its ability to deliver clean and mature sugar cane, increasing Kenya’s national sugar production and reducing the country’s dependence on imports
Writer: Phoebe Calver
Project Manager: Joshua Mann
South Nyanza Sugar Company (SonySugar) is well established in Kenya as the manufacturer of choice for clean and fresh sugar, developed over the years to utilise the rich soils available in the country which contributes to the well-known sweetness of the brand.
Its current product range offers two distinct choices for both the trader and consumer, including the SonySugar Brown and Mill White sugar that is packed in sizes ranging from six grams to 50 kilograms. The extensive offerings from the Company have gained it a super-brand status, becoming a household name that is recognised among the top brands operating in East Africa.
“We are diversifying as a company and increasing our product range in order to access new markets,” explains Managing Director, Bernard Otieno. “Currently we are paying particular attention to sweeteners and condiment products offers and looking to make significant investments in the near future.”
The Company was established 41 years ago by the Government of Kenya in partnership with two development finance institutions, ICDC and Industrial Development Bank; as well as a private investor named Mehta Group International. Located in Migori County in the south-western region of Kenya, SonySugar’s mandate still remains the same, to increase national sugar production and subsequently reduce dependence on sugar imports; creating employment opportunities and enhancing regional development.
“Over the years we have succeeded in shaping regional development through the expansion of commercial agriculture, urban development, employment, and trade and development,” continues Otieno. “Now we are trying to expand opportunities, focusing our efforts on expanding cane development, manufacturing, marketing and trade in quality sugar and associated products.”
Strategy for growth
The Company’s current capacity is approximately 750,000 metric tonnes (MT) per year, significantly contributing to the fruition of Kenya’s Vision 2030 through growing sugar production.
“Currently we are working hard to up capacity optimisation, increasing production to 900,000MT per year,” states Otieno. “In order to achieve this, our plans include increased sugarcane availability, sugarcane supply and de-bottlenecking as well as process automation of the plant to operate at its optimal levels.”
The Company has embarked on initiatives and investments in recent years, bettering its industry leading status and improving the availability of prime-quality, mature cane.
Otieno affirms: “We have invested in competencies and capabilities in sugarcane agronomy, farmer support and funding, investment in roads, cane development and manufacturing systems, enterprise resource planning, human resources and quality management systems.”
While pursuing its strategy for optimisation of the core business performance in sugar production, the Company has been moving itself up the value chain through the diversification of products. In recent times in particular the Company has made significant investments towards numerous areas of the business.
“We have paid particular attention to the realisation of information and communication technology and its importance to development in this day and age,” continues Otieno. “One stand-out investment has been in a state-of-the-art ERP system which covers all aspects of the business, as well as an agriculture-specific management system.”
Alongside the bigger investments that SonySugar has made in recent years, resources have also been deployed more specifically on agronomic trials for sugarcane to improve the various cane varieties that the Company produces.
Otieno states: “At this point in time there is a lot of work occurring on our process side, involving modification and modernisation of our sugar plant. Some of the key aspects of the upgrades taking place include the installation of a Fibrisor to improve cane preparation for milling, automation of our boilers and installation of the vertical crystalliser to ensure conversion efficiency.”
During its many years in the industry, SonySugar has stood uniquely among its many competitors in the industry, due predominantly to its unwavering philosophy and commitment to its business model.
“Our main philosophy that drives us on in the business is the belief that we can only operate in a continuously profitable and sustainable manner if our key partners are motivated by our services,” explains Otieno. “Our strategic intent and direction will always be to move up the value chain through the diversification of our products in relation to our main work in sugar processing and deepening synergy with our partners in the material and product markets and technology.”
Looking forward, the main targeted products for the Company are ethanol, packed molasses, briquette, commercial electric power and medium density fibre board. Through working with these products SonySugar is confident of its move up the value chain while also upping the milling capacity of the sugar mill, enhancing its capability for the production of additional products.
“We believe that in the next five years the Company will have a stabilised milling capacity of 3,000 tonnes of cane a day, while also having launched at least three additional products,” concludes Otieno. “Currently we are working on phased implementation of those that will be our main priority and we are excited to see how we will progress within the market in the coming years.”