Bakrin: Sugar Sector Reforms to Unlock Quality Jobs for Nigerians as Council Targets 2MMT by 2032

*Unveils robust initiatives to develop host communities, reduce hostilities

James Emejo in Abuja

Exxecutive Secretary/Chief Executive, National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), Mr. Kamar Bakrin, said the country’s drive for self-sufficiency in sugar production was the most important element of the second phase of the Nigeria Sugar Master Plan (NSMP II) and a top priority for the council.

Barkin said the aim was to achieve a production capacity of two million metric tonnes of sugar by 2032, adding that ongoing reforms by the council and the operators’ current expansion strategies will soon unleash thousands of quality jobs for Nigerians.
In an interview with THISDAY, Barkin said based on the mandate and new targets given to major sugar operators by the council, the former had embarked on an aggressive expansion that will create high-paying jobs for Nigerians in the coming months.

The NSDC boss also revealed that through some regulatory interventions by the council, sugar operators had agreed to pool resources towards the development of host communities – a move that would further douse current hostilities towards the operators.
He said, “You are going to see a lot of employment because each of the sugar operators has very aggressive expansion plans, which we have seen and we have also engaged them on what they need to do.

“You will see a lot more economic activity. You know, in terms of logistics and others, a lot is going on in the sugar-producing estates, and it will translate into jobs for the local communities, suppliers, contractors, and all of that because everybody is now scrambling to move.
“They are laying irrigation pipes, they are completing other infrastructure, they are expanding their factories and rehabilitating them, and so on. So, you see a lot of that. Of course, we will continue to import sugar for some time. I told you it has quite a significant gestation period, but at least we will see those benefits very soon.”
Bakrin said the economic impact from the current expansion drive would be significant for the economy, pointing out that the council has identified 14 new greenfield sites, ranging from 6,000 to 18,000 hectares, across the sugarcane belt, with high viability for sugar production.

He said these sites had not been previously cultivated and required further evaluation to determine their full viability.
Barkin said, “There is nothing better than employment. I can sit down and promise you we will crash the price of sugar. But jobs are the real things.
“I am talking about thousands of jobs. These are good quality jobs. Some of them are factory jobs. Yes, some of them are farm jobs, and some of them are seasonal. But there are quite several factory jobs that will be created that are sustainable.”

He said there was need for a comprehensive approach to addressing community hostilities, a long-standing challenge in the sugar industry, highlighting key strategies incorporated into the NSMP II to ensure community acceptance.
According to him, these include educating communities about the economic benefits of sugar production, allocating a portion of capital for community development projects, and mandating sugar companies to recruit residents for various positions, thus, fostering greater community involvement and engagement.

He said, “We are mandating a specified amount of capital that must be dedicated to community development, roads, schools, clinics, whatever makes sense for that community.
“We are also mandating a certain amount of recruitment that must come from the host communities, as well as the catchment areas for both field operatives, junior staff and workers, and so on, as well as for managerial staff.
“And we have already engaged the operators around this and we have gotten their buy-in. We also insist that a certain quantity of the sugar produced must be by out-growers sourced from the local communities.”

He said the council had good engagement with governors of host states to create a friendly environment for the investors.
Barkin stated, “I think we have met with all governors of states in which we are active. We have met with all the state governors, including Nasarawa, Adamawa, Kwara, and Niger states. We have had very fruitful discussions. We have gotten their commitments. Not only have they given verbal commitment, they have delivered.
“So, for example, one of the operators had an issue with a 2,000-hectare piece of land, which the host community was denying them access to develop and plant cane there.

“We met with the governor, we explained to him what we are doing and he set up a committee and that has been resolved. That land has now been handed over to the operator to develop.”

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