NIGERIA – Nigeria is said to be losing at least $600million foreign exchange annually to the importation of sugar for domestic consumption.

Director Policy, Planning, Research and Statistics, National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), Mr. Hezekiah kolawole, disclosed this in his address at a Sugar Sensitisation Workshop on the implementation of the national Sugar Master Plan, held recently in Calabar.

Kolawole said: “Our nation is well endowed with the resources in terms of land, water, and human capital that is required to produce sugar in large quantities to not only satisfy her domestic and industrial requirement but also for export to earn foreign exchange.

Sadly however, Nigeria has negative balance of trade in this promising sub-sector as it incurs a huge annual import bill of about $600 million to $650 million on sugar for her local requirements.”

He stated that in order to address the situation, which has affected the nation’s economy adversely, the federal government recently took some practical action to reverse the negative trend.

“The urgent need to reverse the trend of previous dependence on sugar importation, and to harness the apparent comparative advantages for massive local production of the commodity, led to the formulation of the Nigeria Sugar Master Plan (NSMP)”, he added.

Stressing that sufficient production of sugar for local consumption, and export would have positive impact on the nation’s economy, Kolawole added: “If the commodity were produced from within, no foreign exchange will be required and there will be market stability and commodity availability.”

Kolawole added that in terms of employment generation, the sugar industry was next to the textile industry.

He, however, stated that a lot has been done by the federal government and the private sector towards increasing the quantum of sugar produced for local consumption, and generation of foreign exchange.

“The implementation of the NSMP commenced in January 2013, and it is expected that by the end of the 10 years plan period, Nigeria would have built up the industrial capacity required to, among other benefits, produce about 1.79 million metric tones of sugar and 161. 2 million litres of ethanol, substantially reduced importation of sugar to conserve the huge foreign exchange spent on imports annually, generate about 411 MW of electricity, and create about 117, 000 jobs etc”.

He said that if Nigeria was able to meet its sugar production target, 37,378 permanent jobs, and 79,803 seasonal jobs would be created from the sugar sector alone.

Speaking in the same vein, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Industry, Dr. Sam Egwu, said Nigeria needed to move away from its current toddler status in sugar production because the nation was seriously endowed with the natural and human resources to be one of the leaders in the sector globally.

Egwu, who was represented at the event by Senator Barnabas Gemade, said the nation was losing a lot in economic terms by continuously importing sugar for domestic consumption.

“In spite of the comparative and competitive advantage the industry is still in its infancy stage. Most painful of all are the annual drain on the national foreign exchange earnings of over hundreds of billions of naira, loss of employment opportunities of both skilled and semi-skilled labour”, Gemade said.

He said the establishment of the NSDC through an act of the National Assembly was a strategic policy to increase the level of sugar production in the country by 2020 to 1.7 million metric tonnes annually.

“To get this realisable, the nation requires 28 fully functional sugar factories with about 250, 000 hectres of land for sugar cultivation with a bulk of the investments coming from the private investors,” he said, adding that five years into the implementation of the Sugar Master Plan, Nigeria has achieved self-sufficiency in half of the 1.7 metric tonnes production requirements.

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