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Ethanol producers offer rare hope as FX earnings dip

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As Nigeria continues to grapple with falling foreign exchange earnings, ethanol producers in the country may have offered uncommon hope as they have pushed the country’s hitherto poor production capacity beyond its consumption.

Nigerians scrambled for unavailable sanitizer, a by-product of ethanol, last year during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic as the country relied on unavailable imported brands, alongside inflation prices.

At the weekend, ethanol producer, Unicane Industries Limited, announced the completion of the second phase of its plant expansion in Kogi State, which has made it the largest ethanol producer in Africa

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The project has also raised Nigeria’s production capacity, making the country a net exporter of extra neutral alcohol (ENA). The plant expansion has seen Unicane Industries producing about 420,000 litres of ENA per day, translating to a yearly production capacity of nearly 140 million litres.

Its Executive Director, Uzor Kalu, said with the feat, the total national ENA capacity (including production from other local manufacturers) has far exceeded national consumption, thus eliminating the need for ethanol imports and making Nigeria rather a net exporter.

Kalu stated that it is indisputable that the Unicane Group has led and defined the ethanol industry in the country through the investment of tens of billions of naira in plant and machinery as well as built capacity.

Leveraging its 100 years of existence and active engagements in the country’s manufacturing and export activities, he said, the group has evolved from import reprocessing to upstream integration of local sourcing of raw materials of cassava, cashew apples and sugar cane molasses.

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Kalu said that Unicane Industries acquired an expanse of land in Jamata, a fringe village to Lokoja in Kogi State and set up a state-of-the-art local cassava fermentation-to-distillation, 420,000 LPD capacity plant of ENA, from 100 per cent locally-sourced raw materials.

This achievement, he noted, has revolutionised cassava farming in Nigeria, turning cassava from a mere subsistence crop to a lucrative cash crop that is economically empowering farmers, which resonates with the Federal Government’s policy drive to deepen the agricultural sector for improved national economic gain.

Kalu stated that following the plant completion, Unicane aims to grow its backward integration by drumming for local and export sales, and process downstream into derivatives and sub-products of ethanol. He added that, already, the company has Nigeria self-sufficient in sanitizer production.

Kalu listed the benefits of the development to include import substitution, foreign exchange savings, job creation and revenue generation.

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