Nigeria’s journey to self-sufficiency in sugar production

Nigeria’s objective of becoming a net exporter of sugar in the near future is being vigorously pursued by the Federal Government with the adoption of credible measures that will surely reverse the trend of low production that had plagued the sub -sugar producing sector of the food industry and beverage sector of the Nigerian economy over the years, writes Gilbert Ekugbe

In line with its vision of making Nigeria a net exporter of sugar, the Federal Government has continued to take steps through its National Sugar Master Plan (NSMP) to achieve self-sufficiency in sugar production through a policy backward integration allowing sugar companies to invest in the cultivation of sugar cane. and promote locally produced extracts for their refineries. Clearly, these policies have produced a remarkable improvement in sugar production and helped revitalize the once vibrant sugar production, so that the country can begin to expect to be counted among the leading sugar producing countries on the African continent. in the near future. The sugar roadmap policy, the implementation of which began in 2013, is anchored on four main axes. The objectives included: Increasing local sugar production to achieve self-sufficiency; To stem the rising tide of unbridled importation of goods; Create a large number of jobs and contribute to the production of ethanol and the production of electricity.

Although the National Sugar Development Council is the main implementing agency of the policy, its implementation involves assigning responsibilities to relevant stakeholders such as the National Agency for Food Administration and Control and Medicines (NAFDAC), Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), Nigeria Customs Service. (NCS), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Ministry of Finance as well as other relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). Furthermore, stakeholder institutions and facilitators such as millers, importers, sugar cane growers and banks continue to play a central role in the implementation of the master plan.

Journey to autonomy

The journey to self-sufficiency in sugar production is not smooth, but the Federal Government, through the National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), under the kind leadership of Mr. Zacch Adedeji as Executive Secretary, is committed to meeting these particular challenges. head-on as evidenced by a number of innovative and pragmatic steps taken since arriving on board in March 2021. Nigeria has since reached and surpassed its raw sugar refining capacity, which is a major component of the NSMP, a feat, which the government attempts it is best to replicate it in the Backward Integration Program (BIP) aspect of the NSMP.

The Council led by Adedeji has, in more ways than one, demonstrated its willingness to ensure that the BIP sugar project achieves the desired objectives. Adedeji had, during various engagements with operators in the sector, reiterated the Council’s firm position on the implementation of the BIP. According to him, “Nigeria has since reached its raw sugar refining capacity, which is very commendable. But as I have always said, successes in raw sugar refining must be replicated in the BIP project. We can only celebrate as a sector if we are able to grow cane and produce raw sugar locally. I know it’s hard work, but we are more than ready to meet our targets given our commitment and effort.

Since taking office as the Council’s fifth substantial executive secretary in March 2021, Adedeji has taken profound steps and spawned some highly innovative ideas to address the challenges of the sugar sector. High on the list of issues that received his immediate attention was the ongoing conflict between sugar farmers and members of host communities over land ownership. To address this persistent problem, he created the Sugar Producing States Governors Forum, ably chaired by Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State.

The initiative was a smart move given that land is under the authority of state governors who have the power to allocate land without warning. In addition, the establishment of an Investment Office, housed within the Council to deal with matters relating to investments, the zero-duty incentive on the importation of machinery and equipment for sugar plantations as well as relating to seizures by the NCS. This initiative has finally put an end to the recurring clashes between sugar operators and the regulatory bodies of the country’s ports.

Implementation of the BIP project

Recently, to encourage investors in the sector, President Buhari launched a $73 million irrigation infrastructure fund to cushion the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on sugar operators implementing the BIP project. . Operators include Dangote Sugar Refinery, BUA Sugar Refinery and Golden Sugar Refinery. Speaking at the official unveiling of the intervention fund in Abuja, President Buhari said, “The aim of this intervention is to significantly improve the country’s performance in cane yields as well as reduce the negative impact of COVID-19 on industry progress in achieving national goals. self-sufficiency. Therefore, this strategic intervention will enable the main sugar producers in the country; Dangote, BUA and Flour Mills Sugar to increase their capacity and take advantage of the import substitution opportunity in the sugar market, to further reduce the country’s import bill.

In his remarks at the event, Adedeji said the intervention was part of the government’s determination to provide an enabling environment for prosperity and private investment to flourish in the country. “Preliminary activities including identification of specific project sites for each operator which includes a framework for design and engineering services for field and bulk water supply systems, project management and maintenance specifications, adoption of a business model and costing, among others, were concluded long before the official commissioning of this laudable initiative,” he said.

To clarify some misconceptions in some quarters about alleged favoritism and deliberate distortion of the master plan by some operators, Adedeji debunked these claims saying, “The NSMP is no longer a policy. It is now an Act of the National Assembly, following its amendments in 2015. We will no longer condone or condone deliberate misrepresentation of the master plan by anyone. From our side as regulator, we will not hesitate to apply the full weight of the law against any person or group of people caught sabotaging government efforts in the sector.

The Board recently displayed its renewed vigor and declared its commitment to the success of the NSMP by having the operators of the BIP sign re-engagement forms, pledging to abide by the provisions of the master plan and comply with all policies defined in the sector. Adedeji, who said that the future allocation of raw sugar quotas to refineries will depend on the performance of the BIP, noted that the era of allocating quotas based on the size of the factory or sugar estate is over. .

INVESTMENTS IN SUGARCANE BIOFACTORIES

The Federal Government, through the National Sugar Development Council, has established two sugarcane bio-factories, located in Zaria, Kaduna State, and Ilorin, Kwara, to help rapid multiplication of sugarcane seeds from sugar plantations. The bio-factories have been commercialized as they sell healthy, disease-free sugarcane seed to the country’s sugarcane plantations. There has been a general improvement in refining capacity utilization which now stands at 60%.

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

The Backward Onboarding Program operators have, in line with their corporate objectives, completed a number of CSR projects for the benefit of members of their host communities. At the Council, we visited some of the projects carried out by the operators within the communities they operate. A total of N1.3 billion has so far been spent by operators on CSR projects.

FG IRRIGATION INFRASTRUCTURE INTERVENTION

It was only recently that President Muhammadu Buhari launched a $73 billion sugar cane irrigation intervention to cushion the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted many programs in the sector.

Nigeria’s quest to achieve self-sufficiency in sugar production remains our top priority. We will ride on the back of the sugar backward integration program, which is a key part of the Nigerian sugar master plan, to realize our aspirations in the sector.

PRESIDENTIAL SUGAR BEEP

The Backward Integration Program (BIP) for the sugar sub-sector under the Nigerian Sugar Mater Plan (NSMP), was primarily designed to develop the Nigerian sugar sector to enable it to become self-sufficient in the production of sugar. product. Since the start of implementation in 2013, a number of achievements have been recorded in the sector.

INCREASED INVESTMENTS

The backward integration program for sugar under the Nigerian Sugar Master Plan has so far attracted a total of $3 billion in investments by industry players. The main operators are Dangote Sugar Refinery, BUA Sugar Refinery, Golden Sugar Refinery and KIA Africa Group. Operators have their BIP project sites in all states of the country. Dangote Sugar Refinery has two BIP sites located at Numan, Adamawa State and Tunga, Nasarawa State. Cumulative investment at the two BIP sites now stands at $1 billion, while BUA’s $300 million BIP site is located in Lafiagi, Kwara State, the $400 million BIP site of Golden Sugar is in Sunti, Niger State and Toto, Nasarawa State.

JOBS/JOB CREATION

In total, the six BIP project sites have created 15,000 direct jobs and 60,000 indirect jobs. In addition, a total of 3,500 direct jobs were created by sugar refineries. BIP sites have had enormous economic impacts on their host communities and nearby towns and villages. The land under cane increased from 6,000 ha to more than 17,000 ha under cane.

Rachel J. Bradford