Nigeria is yet to achieve self-sufficiency eight years after the launch of the Nigeria Sugar Master Plan.
Dr Latif Busari, the Executive Secretary, National Sugar Development Council told newsmen in Abuja on Sunday that the plan was also to significantly reduce sugar import dependency.
The plan estimated that the country’s demand for sugar will be more than
the 1.7 Million Metric Tonnes (MMT) mark by 2020, with the bulk of the investment capital coming from private investors
The plan will also help the country to establish 28 sugar factories of varying capacities and bring about 250,000 hectares of land into sugarcane cultivation.
Busari said in 2013, three existing refineries signed on to the Backward Integration Programme (BIP).
They are: Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc, BUA Sugar Refinery Limited and Golden Sugar Company.
According to him, the first phase of the BIP will run 2013 to 2018, while the second phase will be from 2018 to 2023.
“Having identified the constraints and designed measures to contain them, the prospects for the effective implementation of the plan over the next five years are bright.
“Series of engagements with the operators are ongoing and the council is confident that the revised plans are realistic and achievable.
“The combination of the new guidelines with the actions that government and relevant agencies will be taking will result in a greater commitment by operators and ultimately, more sugar projects and substantial increases in local sugar production levels,’’ he said
Busari said the objectives of the plan was to raise local sugar production to
attain self-sufficiency, create large number of employment opportunities and to contribute to production of ethanol and generation of electricity.
He listed the main challenges in the implementation of the plan as sustaining operators’ commitment to implementation of BIP plans and laxity in operational procedures and performance rating.
According to him, others are difficulties in land acquisition, community hostility, flooding of sugar estates by the release of water from the Kainji and Jebba dams and the persistent smuggling of St. Louis and other packaged sugar brands.
Busari said the constraints had been the subject of several initiatives by the council in collaboration with the Packaged Sugar Producers Association of Nigeria (PSPAN) and other relevant agencies.
He added that sugar projects were capital intensive with long gestation periods.
“Investors in the sugar industry, just like other investors have difficulties in gaining easy access to cheap funds.
According to him, the solution will be the implementation of a more robust monitoring and feedback mechanism as well as intensified interactions with relevant stakeholders to engender interventions.
He said “the interventions are against operational challenges for example flooding, sugar smuggling, and presentation of issues pertaining to release of land allocation to the Nigeria Governors Forum to elicit the support of state governors for sugar operators whose project land are being threatened.
“There will be sensitisation of communities hosting sugar and other agricultural projects on the economic diversification agenda of government as well as the value and benefits of these projects.
“This will help to avoid all acts that may disrupt operations, special consideration will be extended to sugar projects which have longer gestation periods.
“The council will encourage operators to do more in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and expansion of the sugarcane out grower scheme as a way of engaging the communities.