PressCane set to roll out ethanol for cooking

PressCane set to roll out ethanol for cooking

 PressCane Limited, a subsidiary of Press Corporation Limited plc, has unveiled plans to roll out an alternative ethanol for cooking to compete favourably with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

The innovation is part of ongoing efforts to counter the vibrant market for charcoal, which is used by 98 percent of households, according to Ministry of Energy.

PressCane Limited chief executive officer Bryson Mkhomaathu said in an interview on Friday that given the right environment, ethanol can compete favourably with LPG which authorities have been promoting to save the country’s natural forests currently being ravaged by rampant charcoal production.

PressCane ethanol plant in Chikwawa District

“We have advanced so far and we believe that by the third quarter of 2024, the product should be available under a pilot project within Blantyre and Zomba,” he said.

At least 350 000 litres of ethanol is expected to be produced this year as the company plans to start supplies in the third quarter to test the market in line with market acceptability and later implement a full-scale rollout.

However, Mkhomaanthu could not indicate how much the firm has invested in the sugarcane milling plant, which will be crashing 500 metric tonnes of sugarcane per day.

PressCane has also partnered a local cooperative to grow sugarcane which will be ready for harvest next year.

However, PressCane, which already produces fuel ethanol for blending with petrol, cites taxation as one major challenge, especially taxes levied on fuel ethanol.

Said Mkhomaanthu: “For cooking ethanol to make business sense, it must make economic sense to the consumer and given the current tax regime, it may not be affordable to a consumer and there is need for some of the taxes that are levied on fuel ethanol to be exempted.”

Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Simplex Chithyola Banda and Secretary to the Treasury Betchani Tchereni could not be reached to comment on the taxation, but Ministry of Energy director of energy services Joseph Kalowekamo acknowledged that industry officials have been raising the issues of taxation.

He said there is an ongoing engagement with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs to come up with a favourable tax regime that brings down the cost of using alternative energy solutions being promoted by government.

Said Kalowekamo: “We have in mind, for instance, the promotion of liquefied petroleum gas. You find that the end use appliances, the stoves, are a little bit expensive and taxes are contributing to that.

“We believe that if the taxes are removed, the cost of these appliances will go down.”

PressCane acknowledges that the removal of taxes on electricity for irrigation purposes is a major push towards low production cost of sugarcane, adding that electricity was the second largest expense in the production after fertilisers

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