Nigeria has spent over N776.3 billion to import sugar in two years, despite committing over N170 billion to boosting self-sufficiency in sugar production.
An analysis of quarterly reports of the country’s foreign trade reports released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that N425.5 billion was spent on importing raw sugar in 2021 while N350.8 billion was used in 2022 for the product importation.
The National Sugar Master Plan has its origin in a 2008 Federal Government directive asking the National Sugar Development Council to develop a roadmap for the attainment of self-sufficiency in sugar within the shortest time possible.
The plan had estimated that our demand for sugar would reach the 1.7 million metric tonnes mark by 2020.
With the country overly dependent on imported refined sugar, the masterplan, termed Backward Integration Policy (BIP), engendered development of the sector with the establishment of Dangote Sugar Refinery, BUA Sugar Refinery and Golden Sugar Refinery. These refineries have ensured that the country made headway in its drive for self-sufficiency.
However, the lack of adequate sugar plantations for raw sugar to meet the demand of the refineries has led to over-dependence on its importation.
According to data sourced from the National Sugar Development Council and the National Bureau of Statistics, in 2012 (the first year of the NSMP), Nigeria imported raw sugar worth N238.6bn into the country.
According to the original NSMP blueprint, Nigeria was to establish 28 sugar factories of varying capacities and bring about 250,000 hectares of land into sugarcane cultivation during the 10-year period. The bulk of the investment capital was projected to come from private investors.
However, the national sugar master was recently renewed by the Federal Government due to the failure to halt excessive raw sugar imports into the country during the initial 10-year period.
According to the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive, National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), Mr. Zacch Adedeji, Nigeria consumes 1.7 million metric tons of sugar annually with the majority used by manufacturers.
With the refineries producing 3.5 million metric tons of refined sugar annually, Nigeria has the edge to export to other African countries when the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is fully in place in the continent.
But another integral component of the PIB is the creation of plantations, for which Adedeji stated the country would require 250,000 hectares of land to produce raw sugar that would stem the importation of the product.
Even though there are four major investors in the sector, KIA Group, Africa Dangote Group, BUA Group and Flour Mills, with sugar plantations in the country, subscribing to the BIP was not adhered to judiciously.
Thus, Adedeji last year announced to the sugar companies that allocation of raw sugar would no longer depend on the size of refining capacity but on the extent to which operators have complied with the BIP policy.
He stated that the new system was to reward efforts put in complying with the BIP, and urged the companies to reinvest profits into the country by establishing sugar estates.
This, he said, would enable the country to be self-sufficient in the production of sugar through the 250,000 hectares needed to produce the 1.7 metric tons consumed annually.
With the realization that closing the gap in achieving production is still a long year ahead, President Muhammadu Buhari, also approved a N30bn infrastructure intervention to drive development in the sector.
The intervention was for infrastructure development to accelerate sugar backward integration programme projects for irrigation infrastructure on 10,000 hectares of sugar plantations located at six BIP sites namely; Numan-Adamawa state; Sunti-Niger State; Lafiagi-Kwara State; Bacita-Kwara State; Toto and Tunga-Nasarawa State.”
Similarly, the failure to achieve optimal investment led to the approval of the federal government to extend the BIP for another 10 years.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, had said the extension was to allow self-sufficiency in the commodity.
He added that four investors have jointly created 15,000 jobs, and acquired about 200,000 hectares of land to grow sugarcane and produce sugar locally.