A leading expert in sugar production in Nigeria and professor of plant science, Inuwa Bello of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, has complained about the lack of commitment in the implementation of Nigeria Sugar Master Plan 2020 project.
Speaking in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Bello said, “Lack of commitment and the will to implement Nigeria Sugar Master Plan project has really created a stop-gap from Nigeria achieving the year 2020 target.”
He said, “There are over 20 value chain market potentials in sugar production as against 15 value chain markets in oil.”
Mr Bello urged the federal government to close the land borders to forestall smuggling of sugar into the country to encourage local production.
The National Sugar Development Council on January 20 signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Sugar Institute, Kanpur, India, for the proposed Nigerian Sugar Institute located in Ilorin, Kwara State.
Speaking at the event, the executive secretary, National Sugar Development Council, Latif Busari, said a major challenge of the sector is lack of technical manpower.
“We saw that if we must succeed in establishing the sugar factories, the factories will be lacking in the areas of managing the factories and the farms,” he said.
“Then we saw the need to set up an institute that will rapidly develop the technical manpower that is needed in the sugar industry in Nigeria.”
He said sugar is the second most smuggled commodity after rice in Nigeria, and said checking it can transform the economy.
“Sugar production can be effectively used to produce ethanol; the world is paying attention to climate change crisis, sugar production can effectively come in handy to bridge the gap for crude oil,” he said.
The Nigerian sugar industry started in earnest in the 1960s. Today, it only supplies about 2% of the nation’s sugar needs, according to the National Sugar Development Council.
Nigeria’s sugar consumption in 2017 was 1.6 million metric tonnes, 1.56 million metric tonnes in 2016, 1.50 million metric tonnes in 2015 and 1.1 million metric tonnes in 2012.
The Nigeria sugar masterplan, a roadmap for the attainment of self-sufficiency in sugar within the shortest time possible, estimates that the country’s demand for sugar will reach 1.7 million metric tonnes by 2020.
To be able to satisfy this demand, it says, Nigeria will need to establish some 28 sugar factories of varying capacities and bring about 250,000 hectares of land into sugarcane cultivation, over the next 10 years.
The masterplan was developed in 2008 by the National Sugar Development Council developed.
The Federal Agriculture Service predicts that Nigeria’s domestic cane sugar production in 2019/20 (May-April) will be 75,000 metric tons, down about six percent compared 2018/19 figure of 80,000 metric tons.
According to a report by Global Agriculture Information Network, the government’s backward integration program for sugar cane production is significantly challenged due to weak infrastructure, poor policy formulation and implementation, limited funding, and insecurity in some of the sugarcane production areas.
High transport and production costs for hauling harvested sugarcane to the mills, as well as low capacity building are additional constraints.
“Sugar production in Nigeria can overtake Brazil if necessary measures are put in place with friendly business working atmosphere and environment,” Mr Inuwa noted.