Council challenges sugar refineries on increased production

Sugar refiners in Nigeria have been challenged to come up with innovative strategies that would expedite sugar production levels in the country and out-grower farms.

Executive Secretary, National Sugar Development Council, Dr Latif Busari said this at the mid-term review meeting of the council on Nigeria Sugar Master Plan in Abuja.

He recalled that in July, 2013, three Refineries – Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc, BUA Sugar Refinery Limited and Golden Sugar Company – signed on to the Backward Integration Programme (BIP) with the Federal Government.

He said that the companies made some projections but did not achieve most of them.

Dangote Sugar Refinery projected for out-grower farm, 1,000 hectares and achieved only 281 hectares; and for sugar production, projected 72,000 tonnes and achieved 20,200 tonnes; that is 28 per cent. For out-grower farms, BUA Sugar Refinery projected 500 hectares and nothing was achieved, while for sugar production, 15,600 tonnes was projected and nothing achieved,” he observed.

“The Golden Sugar Company also projected 1,000 hectares for out-grower farms and achieved nothing and for sugar production, 57,750 tonnes and achieved 8000 tonnes, which is one per cent,’’ Busari said.

He said that the objective of the meeting was to present a status report on the implementation of the sugar master plan.

Busari said that the meeting would also highlight the key challenges encountered and propose ‘next steps’ that would enable the country to achieve its set goals.

He said that the plan was the policy document approved by the Federal Executive Council in September, 2012, to facilitate the achievement of self-sufficiency in national sugar demand.

The council secretary said that having identified the constraints and designed measures to contain them, the prospects for effective implementation of the plan over the next five years were bright.

He said that many projects that would have raised the implementation profile of the plan were stalled by government/host community unwillingness to give out land.

He said that other challenges were community hostility, incessant flooding of sugar estates and smuggling of St Louis Cube Sugar into the country.

Busari said that for progress, there would be strict administration of sanctions for plan infractions and intervention by Federal Government, States and Local Governments on land and communal issues.

He said that the release of revised guidelines for BIP performance evaluation and Raw Sugar Quota Administration would also go a long way to achieve the set goals.

Declaring open the meeting, Dr Okechukwu Enelamah, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, admitted that the Nigeria sugar industry had faced challenges.

Enelamah said, “If we don’t overcome these challenges, it will be difficult to implement plans on other products”.

On his part, Malam Abubakar Moriki, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Industry, said that the out-grower scheme needed to be further strengthened and re-designed to accommodate local community participation.

Moriki said that the council should engage in research and development and develop partnerships with agricultural research institutes and relevant stakeholders to identify and develop improved sugarcane stem for optimal yield.

He said that it was important that the policy of raw sugar importation be critically examined, with importers sensitized on the need to collectively operate in line with the objective of the plan.

It is also important to address the issue of sugar levy collection, tracking and utilization of the fund,’’ Moriki added.