The development is coming barely a month after the Federal Government commenced the implementation of the Backward Integration Policy (BIP) in the sugar industry. Indeed, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, has commended the sugar refiners for the progress recorded within the time frame.
The Federal Executive Council had on October 19, 2012, approved the Nigerian National Sugar Masterplan.
Specifically, the Minister noted that if the plan is effectively implemented, going by the pace being experienced in the industry, “Nigeria may soon begin to focus on the export market from 2016.”
Speaking during a facility tour of BUA Sugar Refinery in Lagos, at the weekend, the Minister noted that the level of success recorded by the refineries in terms of sugar production and investment in the sector is highly commendable.
According to him, the whole idea of the backward integration plan was to reduce importation of raw sugar and eventually increase refineries’ capacity to invest in sugarcane plantation such that attention would be focused on the export market.
He said: “We have done very well since September last year when it was introduced. We have worked with different groups and received their plans. We have to commend the refineries. We are moving to the next level of the integration plan. With the level of capacity utilisation recorded, this would aid job creation in the country.
“Today’s (Saturday) visit is to assess the refineries’ demonstration to the BIP. We are also working with them on their sugar allocation based on their commitment to the BIP. We hope to replicate the success recorded in the cement industry in the sugar industry.”
The Group Chief Operating Officer, BUA Group, Chimaobi Madukwe, commended the government for its commitment to the sector while stressing the need for an increase in its sugar allocation in order to help the firm remain in production.
According to him, local firms have expressed commitment to supporting government’s initiative, “but to sustain the current growth and success story, we need to be incentivised and encouraged like it is being done in other sectors.”
Executive Director, BUA Sugar Refinery, Siva Kuma, added that the company has acquired a large expanse of arable land to aid its sugarcane production, noting that the company has recorded at least 95 per cent increase in capacity utilisation and would remain committed to investing in the nation’s economy and job creation.
Managing Director of the company, Goddie Isibor, explained: “Presently, we have been operating at 95 per cent capacity utilisation in the last two months and production rate has been at an average of 42,000 metric tonnes per month or 640,000 metric tonnes per annum. This means that we will certainly run out of raw sugar and therefore shut operations in the last quarter of the year.
“When factories shutdown or reduce production, smuggled goods take over, workers become redundant and even funding for backward integration is affected. We hope government addressees this.”
However, the three major sugar refiners have urged the Federal Government to increase sugar allocation to them to enhance production and boost the supply chain.
To this end, representatives of the refiners, comprising Dangote Sugar Refinery, BUA Group, and Golden Sugar Refinery would meet with the Federal Government tomorrow, to seek panacea to the challenges encountered by the refineries in the course of implementing the backward integration policy.