The Federal Government has approved the Nigerian Sugar Master Plan (NSPM), including a regime of fiscal and investment incentives, in order to make the country self-sufficient in sugar production.
Currently, the country only meet 10 per cent of its sugar requirement, and has expended over N101 billion on the importation of the commodity in the last two years.
Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, and his counterpart in the Ministry of Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga, who briefed journalists after the Federal Executive Council meeting yesterday, agreed that the adoption of the policy by the Federal Government was in line with its Backward Integration Policy (BIP), which has been implemented successfully in the cement production sector.
According to Aganga, there is no nation that develops successfully by relying on the importation of raw materials and products.
Lamenting that Nigeria is the fourth largest importer of sugar in the world, he said the apex government took the decision to approve the policy because of the strategic importance of the commodity in terms of provision of employment, source of energy and large scale saving of money for the country.
The justification for the policy, the ministers posit, is that the country will "derive the following benefits: 1,797,000 tonnes of sugar annually; 161.2 million litres of ethanol annually; 400 MW of electricity annually; 1.6 million tonnes of animal feeds annually; 37,378 permanent jobs; USD65.8 million savings in forex on fuel imports annually; and USD350 million saving in forex on sugar imports annually."
"In order to reverse the decline in the sub-sector, the NSMP has spelt out the sugar and ethanol projections required to achieve self-sufficiency in these commodities and indicated that the number of factories and sugarcane hectares, and number of skilled and unskilled staff required," a post-FEC document showed.
The NSMP, which implementation will span the next 10 years, is conceived to entail many projects which would cover all geo-political zones of the country, thus the decision to implement and adopt it as "government's strategic road map for the development of the sugar sub-sector."
This is to be done in order to order to stimulate investments in the sector and raise local production of sugar to meet national demand and reverse Nigeria's total dependence on imported sugar.
The FEC, therefore, approved the package of general and BIP support incentives including zero per cent duty on the importation of machineries required to process the raw materials as well as support for all the three existing sugar companies in the country so that they will benefit from the implementation of the policy.
Maku, also intimated that the FEC deliberated on a comprehensive report on the state of universities in the country.
The report which was presented to council by the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, documents the state of issues of infrastructure facilities, lecturers, student ratio, availability of lecturers among others.
Maku said after an extensive deliberation of the report, President Goodluck Jonathan directed that it should be presented to the National Economic Council (NEC), for the consideration and input of governors and other stakeholders.