By Kunle Adekoya
AS the nation grapples with the problem of infrastructure, especially the all-important electric power problem, it is obvious that not all viable options have been explored in this regard. This became clear with a revelation that sugar refineries can contribute immensely, and indeed help in no small measure to solve the nationâ€™s electric power conundrum. For example, India, a country once colonised by the British like Nigeria has about 650 sugar refineries, compared with Nigeria which has just one – Savannah Sugar Company Ltd (SSCL), located in Numan, Adamawa State. The first one, the one at Bacita, is, like many other things Nigerian, moribund. However, using co-generation technology, a sugar refinery generates its own electricity, with enough surplus to power a sizeable part of the nation.
Mahesh Gupta, managing director of SSCL disclosed during an interactive session with newsmen that his company generates 28 MW of electricity, and with â€œelectricity demand in Adamawa at just two MW, SSCL can power the whole state. In fact, we can export power to Lagos. We generate here and feed into the national grid, from which Lagos can then get the power.â€ Dangote Group became new owners of Savannah Sugar through a privatization process conducted the by Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), and the company has a plantation on over 32,000 hectares of land in Numan, Adamawa State. Presently it generates 28 MW, and burns only 20 KW of electric power per tonne of sugar cane refined.
Gupta said there was need for the Federal Government to encourage agriculture, especially sugar cultivation to assist the countryâ€™s problem of power supply. According to him, about 500,000 hectares of low land suitable for sugar cane cultivation exists in the country. â€œThese lands, scattered in about 40 locations around the country, are capable of producing about 30 million tones of sugar cane and could also produce three million tones of sugar annually. There is need for government to subsidize fertilizer for farmers to encourage agricultural growth in Nigeria. The cost of fertilizer is very high. Government should also encourage sugar cane farming, because it has a lot of derivatives, which could be use for other purposes.
For example, Nigeria could source its energy from sugar cane. Many other countries have tried it and it has worked perfectly for them. Savannah Sugar has the ability to generate over 28 MW to the national grid. Imagine, if government could get that from one sugar company producing at full capacity, the problem of energy would have been resolved. We have plans for a 65,000 kilo liter per day ethanol plant. Detailed specification and layout have already been worked out, and we plan to confirm order on supplier by early 2010 so as to make it ready for operation by October 2011.â€ Gupta added that Nigeria imports 1.5 million tones of sugar yearly. â€œSavannah can produce 50,000 tonnes of sugar. In the next five years, we hope to produce 200,000 tonnes. Presently, we can only produce 10 per cent of the sugar demand in Nigeria.” Apart from getting alternative power from sugar cane plantation, Gupta said that the industry was capable of generating employment to the unemployed graduates and non-graduates in the country.
He said that Savannah Sugar presently have over 3000 workers in its Numan farm and factory and hoped to increase the number workers to 8,000 in the next few years.