Despite COVID-19, Others, Sugar Master Plan Intact, Says NSDC Boss

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By James Emejo

The Executive Secretary, National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), Dr. Latif Busari, has assured that the federal government’s strategy to achieving self-sufficiency in sugar production through the Nigeria Sugar Master Plan (NSMP) was still on track.

His assurance came against the backdrop of wanton destruction of some of the sugar plants following recent floodings in Niger State and across the country.

Also, there had been concerns that the nationwide lockdown by the government to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic may have remarkably slowed progress in attainment of the target for sugar.

However, Busari, while addressing journalists in Abuja to provide updates on the project, said though some of the sugar plants have had to be shut down as a result of the pandemic – partially limiting progress – the Council had been able to manage the situation to ensure the entire process was not stalled, insisting that, “The NSMP goal is still on course.”

He, however, lamented that instances of ports congestion and lack of funds may limit the overall progress towards achieving the target for sugar production in the country.

According to him: “The BUA project in Lafiaji, had their consignment imported and was hooked up – even the one for Savannah – was hooked up for almost eight months at the Apapa port, no way out.

“It was only around February and March this year that they were able to bring in some consignment. So it is the ones they are able to bring to site that they started installation with.

“So if the port administration is not really effective in the management of the port to ensure the release of these consignments and movement to the site, this could also cause limitations and slow down progress.”

Represented at the briefing by the council’s Director, Policy, Planning, Research and Statistics, Mr. Hezekiah Kolawole, the NSDC boss, also called for more private sector participation in the sugar project in order to not only feed the country but also export to other African countries.

He told THISDAY: “The opportunity is there for everyone to take advantage of the masterplan. In fact, we want more people to come because it is not just that we are aiming at producing enough to satisfy Nigeria’s requirements but also to take advantage of the neighbouring African market.

“Why can’t Nigeria be supplying sugar to the whole of Africa? We can, the land, water resources are there and human resources is cheap. So why can’t we do it? We can do it.

“We only need to be focused and committed and the sugar council is trying in this regard and investors in the sector are making the most efforts and before long we believe we will get to the promised land.”

Earlier in September, the council had raised the alarm that the N60 billion sugar investment project in Sunti Golden Sugar Estate (SGSE), owned by Flour Mills, was reportedly threatened by floods occasioned by the sudden release of water from the Kainji Hydro Power Dam in Niger State.

The floods which reportedly swept through the sugar estate, destroyed flood protection dykes, factory equipment and submerged cane fields, pulling down office and residential buildings and halted activities at the estate.

Other operators in the sugar project include Dangote and BUA among others.

The Nigerian Sugar Master Plan is a road map designed to make the Nigerian sugar industry transform into a world class multi-product sugarcane industry.

In line with the federal government’s Transformation Agenda to make Nigeria one of the top 20 economies in the world by the year 2020, the NSMP aims at reinvigorating the sugar industry to contribute to the overall goal of the agenda.

The NSMP provides a framework for setting goals, defining key actions, and generating and allocating resources to fund programmes in the industry.