By Racheal Ishaya
Abuja – The Federal Government says the country will be self-sufficient in refined sugar production by 2023.
Dr Latif Busari, the Executive Secretary, National Sugar Development Council said this on Thursday in Abuja at the signing of “Sugarcane Irrigation’’ agreement between BUA and NETAFIM.
Busari said the agreement would boost sugarcane farming, thereby, providing raw materials for refined sugar production.
“Right now, we are producing only five per cent of our total need and importing the rest.
“However, I must state clearly that what we import is raw sugar and not refined sugar.
“We import raw sugar and our refineries which have a combined capacity of about three million metric tonnes refining capacity refined it.
“Dangote, BUA and Golden sugar import raw sugar, add a bit of value and in the process create some few jobs.
“However, we are working to get these major operators to begin to produce locally and that is why we started the backward integration programme,’’ he said.
Busari commended BUA for embarking on the project and pledged the council’s continued support for sugar producers to succeed.
Also speaking, the Group Executive Director, BUA, Mr Kabiru Rabiu said that the company was investing about N108 billion (300 million dollars) into backward integration of sugar in the country.
He said that the agreement with Netafim would improve irrigation at BUA’s 20,000 hectares Lafiagi Sugar plantation, using artificial intelligence and highly sophisticated irrigation and mapping technology.
“Since we started this project, we have not relented in putting together the most sophisticated sugar plantation project in Nigeria till date.
“In addition to milling and refining of sugar, we are also investing in ethanol production and power generation.
“Netafim will help us determine the irrigation and water application needs of different areas and soil types in the plantation.
“Construction of the sugar mill at the plantation has started and upon completion will produce more than 1.8 million tonnes of sugarcane, yielding about 250,000 tons of white refined sugar.
“Also, it will produce 20 million litres of ethanol, employ more than 10,000 persons and generate some 35 MW of electricity every year,’’ he said.
The Federal Government’s Nigerian Sugar Master Plan which started in 2013, aims to achieve local sugar production level of about 1.7 million metric tonnes by 2023.
The target is expected to be attained by the establishment of numerous sugar factories in parts of the country and cultivation of sugarcane on at least 250,000 hectares of land over 10 years.
Most of the investment in the sector is expected to come from the private sector.