Lagos — For every cube of sugar imported into Nigeria, one is bringing poverty, unemployment and insecurity among others, the Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of National Sugar Development Council, Dr. Latif Busari has said.
Busari in his paper presentation on 'The Sugar Economy' at the 3rd Agricultural Conference and Exhibition which held in Lagos said that Nigeria has potential of becoming a net exporter of sugar. He also pointed out that Nigeria sugar consumption has been on the increase since independence with an annual average growth rate of 8 percent according to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS, 2005).
"Only about 5 percent of the national demand for the commodity is produced locally while the balance is imported with a huge foreign exchange on an annual basis. This is in spite of the fact that Nigeria's large potential, in terms of abundant land, water and human resources, to produce sugar, to not only satisfies her local requirements but also for export to earn foreign exchange. What a paradox!,"
"For every cube of sugar imported in to the country, one is bringing poverty, unemployment, insecurity etc. The need therefore, arises to check the unprecedented dependence on importation of sugar," he stressed.
Some of the reasons for the increase in demand for sugar he said may be attributed to growth in population, increase in per capital income, urbanization, change in taste and increased industrial usage of the commodity.
Sugar according to him is a strategic commodity that is essential in the daily life of any nation; owing to the fact that it is consumed as a food item and it is used as an industrial raw material in virtually all food, beverage and pharmaceutical.
He stressed the need to check the unprecedented dependence on importation of sugar because of the strategic importance of the commodity and the urgent need to conserve the hard earned but much expended foreign exchange coupled with the realisation of the fact that Nigeria has potential of becoming a net exporter of sugar.
Sugar, he also said is among the three most important commodities in enhancing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and growth of the nation's economy and development; noting that the contribution of a well-developed sugar industry cannot be over-emphasized in terms of employment generation, wealth creation, food sufficiency, rural development and poverty alleviation.
However, Busari stated that all hands must be on deck to support the implementation of the Nigerian Sugar Master Plan (NSMP), the strategic road-map that will facilitate the achievement of national self-sufficiency in Sugar and its value chain to the economy well-being of Nigeria and Nigerians.
Some of the challenges of the sugar industry and implementation of the NSMP include: problem of access to land/communal agitations, which he said have stalled many project which would have raised the profile of projects under the NSMP; lack of inter-agency cooperation/incentives, which has continued to impede progress in the implementation of the NSMP; persistent flooding of sugar estates and smuggling/faking of local sugar brands among others.
"Smuggling of granulated sugar and faking of local brands particularly in the North-West Zone has been a major menace. Council has engaged relevant agencies to address this. The major operators (DSR, BUA and GSC) have initiated measures with Nigeria Customs, SON and NAFDAC to stem the tide. Smuggling of packaged sugar especially the St Louis brand still persists," he said.
The two-day conference and exhibition that brought together experts and stakeholders from different states of the country was themed 'Re-positioning rice, sugar and dairy production for optimal yield'.