Stakeholders in the sugar industry have unveiled measures to check the importation of the product in the country.
The move is aimed at boosting the local production capacity of sugar.
Indeed, the stakeholders identified the absence of enabling policies and regulatory framework, climate change, logistics, cane breeding, sugar backlash, sustainability and other sundry challenges as some of the challenges facing the sugar economy in Nigeria and indeed the rest of the west African sub-region.
To address these challenges, the stakeholders, at the project completion report meeting and dissemination workshop of the West Africa Sugar Development Project (WASDP) held in Abuja yesterday, advocated improved variety in seed multiplication, reliable supply of sugarcane raw materials to companies to address shortfalls in the sector.
According to them, yields improvement will result in more cane and tonnes of sugar per hectre, which will in turn guarantee job creation and wealth generation in line with the desire of the federal government to move away from its monolithic revenue structure.
The National Sugar Development Council (NSDC) had in 2009 gone into partnership with the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) and the International Sugar Organization (ISO) to acquire, evaluate and select high yielding and disease resistant cane varieties for wide adoption by small holder sugarcane farmers in West Africa sub-region using Nigiw and Côte d’Ivoire as pilot project countries.
The coordinator of the project Latif Busari presenting his report of the five years project at the workshop explained that the project, which was co-sponsored by the CFC contributed $1,004,861.01 which represents 62 percent of the entire funding while other participating agencies including the council, ISO, Côte d’Ivoire contributed $447,697.08.
He said out of the 40 varieties tested, five promising varieties were adopted and would be distributed to farmers for adoption and commercial cultivation after registration with relevant agency.
His words: “High-yielding varieties from this project will replace the old poorly performing varieties that are currently under cultivation by cane growers in the sub-region. Benefiting counties should conclude the ongoing commercial evaluation of the selected varieties at all sundry sites and formally release them for adoption by their farmers’.
The acting Executive Secretary of the Council, Samuel Ali Kwabe is optimistic that the ten years sugar master plan of the federal government will come to fruition with the project.
He said with the plan still in its fourth year, the council still have enough time to ensure that Nigeria stops the importation of sugar and be self sufficient.
Senior economist with ISO, Lindsay Jolly explained that the key challenges in the sugar sector can only be over ridden by deliberate effort by the ECOWAS sub-region to move out of its comfort zones in order to take delivery of the key opportunities in the sector.
He said Nigeria and the rest of the west Africa cannot be isolated from the happenings in the sector around the world, adding that even if the consumption of raw sugar is on the decrease due to health concern, the fact remains that industries still utilize it as major component of production and other bio-products from sugar cane are substances that can substitute fossil fuel.