Minister: Technology Critical to Achieving Self-sufficiency in Sugar Production

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Jonathan Eze

The Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, has identified technology as a critical factor to Nigeria’s drive to grow its sugar industry, adding that production could be fast-tracked 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 sugar industry.

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

The minister, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of 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 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 remark, 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 Research 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 recently. 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 stated further that “technological innovation involving Biotechnology techniques, especially tissue culture and the more advanced Temporary Immersion Bioreactor System (TIBS) which 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.”