Concerns rise over annual importation of 700,000mt of sugar into Nigeria
The Federal Government has raised concern over the annual importation of about 700,000 metric tonnes (MT) of sugar into the country despite the abundance of the resource locally.
The Minister Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo, who was on a facility tour of the Flour Mills Nigeria Plc Sunti Golden Sugar Estates, in Mokwa, Niger State, stressed the government’s readiness to support the private sector in ensuring Nigeria achieved self-sufficiency in sugar production.
The move comes against the backdrop of the implementation of the Nigeria Sugar Master Plan, aimed at attracting over $1 billion annually in local and foreign direct investments, and creating an estimated 107,000 jobs over the first 10-year period.
The Minister said efforts by the private sector to boost sugar production would go a long way in reducing the level of unemployment, saying: “Nigeria is working towards being self-sufficient in sugar, we have been able to do it in cement, and we are trying to do it in sugar.
“As time goes on, we will not import sugar anymore; we will produce more than enough for our use and possibly export. We also want to take advantage of the Africa Developmental Free Trade Area Agreement, so that we can export to other African countries,” Adebayo said.
However the Chairman Suntai Golden Sugar Estates, John Coumantaros, disclosed that it has invested about N64billion into production in the country, and still intends to invest an additional N34billion in infrastructural development for the host community and the factory.
He disclosed that Nigeria consumes about 1.3million MT, while the Suntai and Savanah Farms produce about 600,000MT, meaning, the country imports 700,000MT of sugar annually.
The Chairman disclosed that added that the company plans to engage over 60,000 Nigerians in direct and indirect employment over the next 10 years, adding that “with about 17,000 hectares of land they would be producing about 100,000-150,000MT of sugar when the land is fully developed, we currently produce for the local market.”
He said the company has been helping Nigeria to achieve self-sufficiency in sugar production, saving foreign exchange, creating about 50,000-60,000 jobs, and also bringing industry and agriculture together in the rural area.
According to Coumantaros, the farm currently has about 3000 hectares of sugarcane under cultivation, producing about 17,000MT of sugar, and intend to scale it up to about 30,000MT by next year.
He urged the government to ensure that all operators were allowed a level playing field in the monitoring, assessment of BIP and allocation of quota.
Meanwhile, business Mogul, Aliko Dangote, who also operates a sugar estate in Lafia, Nasarawa State, and accompanied the Minister, said their plan is to transfer the trajectory in the cement to sugar production.
He pointed out that although sugar production is a bit more difficult, because one has to consider the weather factor, land quality, irrigation among others, which is not the same with cement.
On if Nigeria can achieve self-sufficiency in sugar production, he said it is possible, but it is dependent on the land and the area, as it is not possible to produce sugar in Ondo State.
“It is important to have good land that is suitable for sugar, water, but as soon as we get enough land to grow sugar we will invest and continue to invest.”
He added that building a cement factory is much easier than sugar plantation, as it may take another four to five years to build a sugar factory.
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