Booze still taboo, but SA companies beef up alcohol production for hand sanitiser

Sasol has started producing alcohols needed for hand sanitisers and will collaborate with the South African Department of Trade, Industry and Competition to prioritise supply to government entities and other essential services as a means to curb the spread of the virus in South Africa.

Illovo Sugar South Africa, meanwhile, has shifted its focus to quickly respond to companies that require ethanol for the production of hand sanitisers.      

A wave of panic buying struck South Africa in recent weeks, with hand sanitisers being among ,the items in high demand.

In response, petrochemicals company Sasol said it has started producing a unique new blend of alcohol-based chemicals which will be used to manufacture hand sanitisers. 

President and CEO of Sasol Fleetwood Grobler said the company was prioritising local supply by ensuring prices for the various alcohols required to produce sanitisers and disinfectants remain stable, as prices for ethanol and isopropanol alcohol climb due to a spike in global demand.

"Over the past few weeks, Sasol has experienced an increase in demand of nearly 400% for alcohol-based products. 

"In recent weeks, we have delivered close to eight million litres to the South African market and our laboratories, production, marketing and supply chain teams are working around the clock to ensure a reliable supply of critical alcohol-based products to customers," said Grobler.

Meanwhile sugar producer Illovo SA - which also produces ethanol, a kind of alcohol used to manufacture sanitisers and disinfectants - said its Durban factory was not experiencing any ethanol shortages. 

The company, which produces over 50 million litres of ethanol annually, said it plans to refocus its business to cater to the increased demand for ethanol by companies that produce hand sanitisers.  

"Whilst we continue to produce at our current levels, and against the background of our stated commitment to help contain the spread of Covid-19, we have refocused our business plans in order to quickly respond to sanitiser-producing companies who are calling for growing volumes of ethanol for use within their products. 

"This includes working with existing customers in order to redirect already committed volumes," said  Managing Director of Illovo SA Mamongae Mahlare.

The 21-day national lockdown is in its first week, with the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa at over 1 300.

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