Jonathan Eze

The Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, has said technology is critical to Nigeria’s drive to grow the nation’s sugar industry, adding that production could be fastracked through the use of cutting edge technologies by sugar factory owners.

She dropped this hint at the official inauguration of a Sugarcane Bio-factory in Ilorin, Kwara State which was established by the National Sugar Development Council (NSDC) in collaboration with the University of Ilorin Sugar Research Institute.

The minister said the factory is expected to make good use of tissue culture to produce and multiply a few sugarcane varieties, thereby ensuring the provision of pure, clean and good quality sugarcane seeds for the growth of the entire sugar industry.

Speaking on the importance of the project to the attainment of the Nigeria Sugar Master Plan (NSMP), the minister noted that the facility was designed to “address the critical constraint facing the Nigerian sugar industry, that is by ensuring timely provision of high quality seeds to our sugar estates and farmers”.

The minister who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mr. Sunday Edet Akpan, noted that the efficiency in the cultivation and supply of quality sugarcane is essential for milling and production of sugar and the associated by-products like ethanol and electricity.

“The sugar master plan would not be achieved without investing in modern technology like we are witnessing today. The Bio-factory is to rapidly micro-propagate, under a controlled laboratory environment, disease-free crop seedlings for planting”.

In his remarks, the Executive Secretary of the National Sugar Development Council, (NSDC), Dr. Latif Busari, said the bio-factory facility which is the outcome of a collaborative effort between the NSDC and the University of Ilorin Sugar Institute is a bold step towards addressing problems linked to the production of clean, pure and disease-free sugarcane seeds in the country.

According to Busari, “the application of Biotechnology in agricultural development in Nigeria is experiencing some push in recent times. This is necessary if we must achieve food security and provide raw materials for our agro-based industries. The sugar industry is part of the larger picture and our expectation is that this facility will contribute its quota to the attainment of the goals of the NSMP”.

Busari said, “Technological innovation involving Biotechnology techniques, especially tissue culture and the more advanced Temporary Immersion Bioreactor System (TIBS) have revolutionised cane seed multiplication in the laboratory to reduce the time for the production of planting materials, ready for field planting, instead of the conventional seed multiplication in nurseries”.

He said state-of-the art equipment and machineries have been installed, and to be manned by a crop of young upwardly mobile Nigerian scientists and tech-savvy staff to work under the strictly aseptic conditions required for successful operations in the bio-factory.

“We urge all our operators to patronise these facilities for the supply of their premium cane seedlings for cultivation. Not only would they be helping themselves to obtain the best quality cane seeds, they would be helping the industry and the nation at large to move to the next level.”