A pathway to halting the billions of naira spent on importation of sugar into the country yearly has been provided by stakeholders in the sub sector of the economy.
Specifically, the sector operators, who spoke recently in Akure, the Ondo state capital, under the aegis of the National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), stressed that the federal and state governments and their representatives must demonstrate necessary commitment to the implementation of the National Sugar Master Plan (NSMP).
In a Communiqué after the forum-tagged "The Southern Region Sugar Forum"- organised by NSDC, participants insisted that faithful implementation of the NSMP would not only ensure an end to sugar importation, but remained the key that would drive rural industrialization, wealth creation, employment generation, foreign exchange income and savings, as well as production of bio-fuel and bio-electricity power, which are both critical needs for the country's industrialization.
Hence, the communiqué canvassed the replication of the policy implemented in the cement industry "to enable aggressive implementation of the NSMP, to provide enabling environment for both cane growers and processors so as to increase the local sugar production capacity". It also sought the establishment of sugar processing mills nationwide so as to facilitate sugarcane production activities. Further, it advocated for adequate and timely release of agro inputs as it is obtainable in well developed sugar producing nations, like Mauritius, adding that such would encourage out-growers involved in the Backward Integration Programme (BIP). The communiqué also emphasized the need to educate farmers on the profitability of sugarcane farming so as to attract increased interest in it, even as it canvassed improved extension services so as to increase farmers' access to required knowledge on the cultivation of industrial sugarcane, thereby improving their management practice for increased yield per hectare.
In addition, according to the communiqué, NSDC should organize another forum targeting the commissioners of both agriculture and commerce and industry nationwide so as to ensure their commitment to the faithful implementation of the NSMP.
The communiqué also disclosed: "Participants noted that the out-grower scheme is an integral part of NSMP implementation and therefore called on sugarcane farmers to replicate out-grower schemes in India, Pakistan, Kenya and Swaziland". It added: "Participants advocated for capacity development in the sugar industry, and appealed for the encouragement of young scientists, breeders and other professionals who desire a career in sugarcane farming". Participants therefore enjoined the nation's universities to develop capacities and come up with a new curriculum for a career in sugarcane agriculture, the communiqué added. It also canvassed investments in local communities by public and private institutions, saying that such would lead to the establishment of infrastructural facilities, including health, education, portable water etc.
Participants at the forum included the Executive Secretary, NSDC, Dr Abdulatif Busari and the council's Acting Director, Policy Planning, Research and statistics, Mr Hezekiah Kolawole. The paper presenters at the forum included the Chief Executive Officer, Koinonia Ventures Limited, Mr Femi Boyede, a university don- Dr I.U Shehu of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Dr S.A Agbana of Confluence Sugar Company, Ibadi, Kogi State and an engineer from Dangote Sugar Refinery-Braimah Ogunwale.
The Chairman of the occasion, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Trade and Investment, Senator (Mrs) Esther Nenadi Usman, was represented at the forum by a member of the committee and Chairman, Senate committee on Privatization, Senator Olugbenga Obadara.