Sugar Manufacturers Battle with Backward Integration

Sugar manufacturers in the country are still grappling with their backward integration programmes amidst hopes that the massive drop in the volume of output three years ago may sustain a recovery trend that began in 2014.

Sugar output rose to 15,000 metric tonnes (MT) per annum in the latest report up to 2015 after a huge plunge three years ago from 35,000MT they had recorded five years ago. Top operators in the industry include Dangote Sugar, BUA Sugar and Golden Sugar, a subsidiary of Flour Mills.

Government, it was learnt had put in place specific incentives for investors in the industry, to stimulate local production. They include: zero per cent duty on machinery and spare parts imported, five years tax holiday for sugarcane value chain, outright ban on the importation of refined sugar in retail packs and 30 per cent tax credit on the cost of provision of critical infrastructure by sugar-cane-to-sugar project investors.

It was further gathered that under the National Sugar Master Plan (NSMP) the target is to produce an annual volume of 1.8 million tonnes of sugar; 161.2 million litres of ethanol, 4000MW of electricity, 1.6 million tonnes of animal feeds, 37,378 permanent jobs and 79,803 seasonal jobs; save the economy $416 million (N68.6 billion) in foreign exchange over a ten-year period.

However, a five-year data (2011-2015) obtained from the National Sugar Development Council, NSDC, revealed that local production which peaked at 35,000MT in 2011 dropped significantly to 10,000MT in 2013 before rebounding to 12,345MT and 15,000MT in 2015. Currently, the 2016 figures are still being collated.

In a communiqué, stakeholders in the sector noted that the risk associated with investment in the sugarcane to sugar value-chain is very challenging and requires a conscious partnership with Nigeria Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC) to reduce losses caused by natural disasters such as fire and flood. The stakeholders further called on lending institutions like Bank of Industry and Bank of Agriculture to create friendly financial support schemes that would address the challenges being faced by investors in terms of high interest rate, untimely release of funds and other associated bottlenecks that slow down farm and factory operations which are time specific.

In a statement, Mr. Samuel Kwabe, the Acting Executive Secretary of NSDC, said, “I can tell you that the two functional sugar companies we have- the Golden Sugar Company in Niger State and the Savannah Sugar Company in Adamawa State have provided jobs for about 13,000 Nigerians. I am happy to tell Nigerians that the Savannah Sugar, owned by Dangote Group, has been able to produce about 13,000 metric tonnes this year and is undergoing expansion as they are in the process of acquiring a brand new mill, which is about three times the size of the present one.”

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