Ghost-Investors Dish Out $260Mil to Rautenbach
CHISUMBANJE(The Source) – Ethanol producer, Green Fuel has received $260 million from unnamed external investors to expand its water supply systems but still requires another $1 billion to fully fund the project, an official has said.
The firm, a joint venture between government’s Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) and businessman, Billy Rautenbach’s Macdom and Rating Investments, commenced operations over five years ago and has to date invested $330 million in its operations.
“As at the end of the year (2013), we had sunk in about $330 million,” said Rautenbach during Friday’s tour of the firm’s project.
He said political bickering during the coalition government, between 2009-13 had resulted in the firm losing $60 million in the two years that operations were halted.
“In the two years that we were idle, we lost about $60 million paying salaries for no work done and interest (on loans),” Rautenbach said.
Green Fuel has said it requires $1.8 billion in the next decade to fully fund the ethanol project.
Arda board chairman Basil Nyabadza said the firm had acquired $260 million for the construction of a dam to augment supplies.
With Rautenbach, the main funder of the project, having been among Zimbabweans slapped with western sanctions in the last decade, Nyabadza said the firm had to resort to grey means of accessing financial support.
Rautenbach was taken off the embargo list early this year.
Green Fuel has built 13 feeder dams to store water for irrigation but requires additional water sources for its expansion projects.
The firm’s cane plantations currently cover less than 10,000 hectares but plans are underway to increase the hectarage to 15,000 in the medium term and eventually to 40,000.
An average of 135 to 160 tonnes of cane harvested per hectare, producing up to 270,000 litres of ethanol daily.
Green Fuel wants blending levels increased to 20 percent from the 10 percent despite market fears about using the fuel.
Rautenbach said blended fuel up to E25 was safe for use in most imported vehicles driven in the country except for very old models.
Abandoning ethanol blending, he said, would result in an increase in the price of fuel.
Green fuel is producing 3.7MW at its electricity plant for internal use but has plans to jump the production to 86MW by 2018.
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