Minister of State for Trade, Commerce and Industry, Hajia Aisha Abubakar, has commended SONA group for its commitment and contributions to the economic growth of the country through their backward integration programme and the employment opportunities it has provided Nigerians.
The minister disclosed this in Ota, Ogun State, at the weekend at the inauguration of the companyâ€™s new production lines. She added that the President Muhammadu Buhariâ€™s administration is determined to encourage local industries through its programme on Ease of Doing Business.
Earlier, the Group Chief Operating Officer of the Group, Mr. Ashok Manghnani, told the minister that their subsidiary, Food, Agro and Allied Industries Limited remained the largest and most modern malt extract plant in Africa.
The company however urged the federal government to ban the importation of sorghum; barley and biscuits into the country as Nigeria is self-sufficient on them.
According to him, the group has invested over $650m in over 8 subsidiaries and have over 8,000 employees and asked for a generous support by government through policies that will encourage and enhance local manufacturing.
He disclosed that they not only have capacity to take care of local demands but also has started exporting to Senegal, Ghana and Abidjan with prospects into other countries in Africa. He cautioned that allowing importation of products the nation have competitive advantage is not good for local manufacturing and will harm the economy of the country.
He said: â€œWe produce a vast range of quality products including quality malted sorghum, malt extract, maltose syrup, glucose syrup a substitute for imported sugar. The products are key inputs in breweries, biscuits manufacturing, confectionery& pharmaceutical companies as well as other food and beverage industries. Our fully automated plant can produce 25,000 tonnes of malt extract, high maltose syrup and raw sorghum. â€œThere is therefore the need to increase the tariff from the 5 per cent it is currently to discourage importation as we are comfortably self-sufficient in these raw materials.â€
While calling for preferential rate for lending to the manufacturing sector, Manghnani called the attention of the minister to the Bank of Industry (BoI) prohibitive commercial rate to the sector noting that it is detrimental to the sector.
According to him, no industrial concern can survive on the 15 per cent charged by the bank.
In his remarks, the Group Managing Director of the group, Mr. Ajai Musaddi, also asked that the 20 per cent custom duty on ethanol be reversed. He said: â€œGovernment should increase tariff on imported biscuit as we are self-sufficient in it besides the miserly 5 per cent duty on imported plastics and pallets including sorghum should be discouraged. Except government takes this bold step the local industries will be endangered due to unhealthy competition.â€
Hajia Abubakar promised to address some of the challenges the sector is experiencing by providing an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.
â€œWe are indeed addressing it in the various policies we have come up with it, financing is a main issue in the sector and we are prepared to address it. Currently we are working on addressing the Sorghum challenge. There is no good reason for it to be imported based on what l have seen today. In the shortest possible time, you will experience a relief in your line of business as government is building linkages across sector.