The operation phase of the largest sugar refinery in Syria, with a daily production capacity of 1,000 tons and perspectives to triple this total in the next three months, has started. The information appeared on the Internet site of Aljazeera TV.
The industrial unit, located in Homs region, is a joint venture between the Brazilian Crystalsev, multinational Cargill and businessman Najib Assaf, who is the majority partner. According to the Aljazeera site, Assaf said that the raw sugar used as an input comes from Brazil.
The businessman added, according to the site, that the Syrian market is absorbing the whole of production, but that the plan is also to sell to Jordan and Lebanon when the refinery reaches its full production capacity. The storage capacity at the factory is 270,000 tons of raw sugar and 80,000 tons of refined sugar.
The enterprise was announced in early 2004, soon after the visit by Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to the Arab country, in December 2003. Initial forecasts were for the plant to have started producing earlier, but it was delayed.
Brazil is the main producer and exporter of sugar and also the main supplier of the commodity to the Arab world. The product is by far the Brazilian product with greatest participation in the export basket to Syria.
Just to give an idea, of the US$ 195.7 million in sales to the country last year, sugar answered to US$ 111.7 million, according to information by Brazil's Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade.
The volume shipped rose from 349,400 tons in 2006 to 368,500 tons in 2007, which represents over half what the Syrian market consumes. According to the Aljazeera site, consumption in Syria is 700,000 tons per year and the country is considered the center for the sweet industry in the region.
If the volume has risen, revenues dropped due to the depreciation of the commodity on the foreign market. The price per ton of sugar fell from US$ 327 in 2006 to US$ 263 in 2007. The year before last, Brazil had exported the equivalent to US$ 130 million in sugar to Syria.
Located in the Middle East, in the Levant region, Syria has a population of almost 20 million people and an estimated Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$ 41 billion, according to the Economist Intelligence Unity, an information service provided by British magazine The Economist.
According to a report by the Market Intelligence department at the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, industry answers to 22% of the local GDP, being the most important sectors the food and textile. The pillar of the country's economy, however, is the oil sector, which answers to 70% of the country's exports.