Sudan opens Africa’s largest sugar plant, dismisses ‘Arab Spring’

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africa's biggest sugar plant
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir signs on the first sack of sugar produced at the White Nile Sugar Co sugar plant during its opening in Al-Diwaim 11 July, 2012. Sudan launched production on Wednesday at the much-delayed $1 billion sugar plant. Photo – Reuters

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday inaugurated ‘Africa’s largest sugar refinery’ in the White Nile state, the country’s biggest industrial development for many years.

The government insisted the project will help counter an economic crisis that is fuelling dissent in the country. “Sudan will be one of the more significant sugar-exporting countries in the Arab and African region,” the official SUNA news agency quoted the Sudanese president as saying.

President Omar al-Bashir ridiculed the possibility of an Arab Spring taking place in Sudan, saying “there is only scorching heat to grill the country’s enemies.”

“We tell those who are waiting… there will be no Arab Spring in Sudan. We have a hot summer in Sudan that will burn the enemies of Sudan,” he said at the site of the plant some 170 kilometres south of Khartoum.

White Nile Sugar earlier announced it aimed to produce 450,000 tonnes of sugar annually and 60 million litres (13 million gallons) of ethanol.

Sudan’s Kenana Sugar is the largest shareholder, with a 30% stake, whereas the Sudanese government owns 35% in the company. The Kuwait Investment Authority controls 31%.

Khartoum is struggling to recoup lost revenue by increasing exports of sugar. South Sudan separated last July, taking with it about 75% of oil production and more than one-third of the Khartoum government’s revenues.

Inflation exceeds more than 30% in the country with rising prices of sugar and other basic commodities contributing to soaring social unrest. Scattered protests continue to take place across the country since 16 June after the government announced austerity measures.

White Nile Sugar was set to open in April but officials postponed the ceremony at the last minute, citing US sanctions on computer softwares.

The United States imposed a trade embargo on Sudan over human rights and other concerns in 1997. Some sanctions allow for exemptions under certain circumstances.

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