By Yemisi Izuora-Lagos
The Federal Government has inaugurated a N45 billion integrated, state-of-the-art sugar production plant in Sunti, Niger State.
The project is wholly owned by Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc, (FMN) and comprises of a 16,500 hectare sugarcane estate and mill.
The project is part of the Ministry of Industry and Investment’s approved Backward Integration Programme (BIP) for the production of local sugar in line with the provisions of the National Sugar Master Plan.
The company has invested N16 billion in the project, while the entire project is expected to be completed and commissioned before the end of 2016.
When completed, the mill is expected to produce 100, 000 metric tons of sugar annually; create 15,000 direct and indirect jobs, generate 10MW of electricity, produce animal feed and fertilizer as a by-product and save the country over $50m annually in foreign exchange.
Speaking during the inauguration the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, said the event represented a major milestone in President Goodluck Jonathan’s economic diversification efforts.
Aganga noted that the implementation of the National Sugar Master Plan was an integral part of the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP).
According to him, Today is another historic day as it represents another milestone in the implementation of the National Sugar Master Plan, an integral part of the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP), which was launched by our President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, in line with his Transformation Agenda.
As part of the NIRP, we have developed the National Sugar Master Plan as one of the sector-specific policies to diversify the Nigerian economy because we were importing about 97 per cent of the sugar we consume in this country when we can produce sugar from sugarcane. Also, from the raw materials of producing sugar, we can generate electricity, produce ethanol and animal feeds.
Aganga, who expressed satisfaction with the current level of implementation of the new Sugar Master Plan, said the country was on course towards achieving economic diversification, stressing that the Federal Government would continue to provide the conducive environment and right incentives to attract and sustain investments across the country.
He said “In 2012, President Jonathan approved the National Sugar Master Plan because for a long time, we have relied heavily on exporting one commodity (crude oil) despite the fact that our country is blessed with about 84 million hectares of arable land. And for decades, we pursued a wrong policy of exporting crude oil and using the proceeds to buy back refined petroleum products and created jobs for other countries.
The current decline in price of oil has reinforced the need for us as a country to take proactive steps to diversify our economy through industrialization.
“Today, I have come to see the progress that Flour Mills has made in terms of adhering strictly to the Sugar Master Plan. Although I receive regular updates from the National Sugar Development Council and all the sugar companies, I still consider it very important to come to see things by myself; and I am satisfied with the level of investment and work that is going on here.”
The minister added, “Having gone round the multi-billion-naira facility, I can say that the company has fully embraced the new Sugar Master Plan and is fully implementing their Backward Integration Programme as approved by my ministry. One striking thing about the company’s BIP is that they are doing the sugarcane plantation side by side with rice production, thereby, keying into commodity-based industrialisation and import-substitution.
“This is in line with Federal Government’s strategies for diversifying our nation’s economy, and we are on course towards achieving that. We will continue to provide the conducive environment and right incentives to attract and sustain more investments across all sectors of the Nigerian economy.”
In his remarks at the event, the Chairman, Flour Mills Nigeria Plc, Mr. John Coumantaros, commended President Jonathan and the Trade Minister for initiating and implementing the new Sugar Policy, adding that the company would continue to take advantage of government’s investment-friendly policies and incentives to increase its investments in the country.
He said, “Today is a proud day for us. We are proud because we have been able to invest and build something out of nothing because of the Federal Government’s new Sugar Policy. However, due recognition must be given to President Jonathan and Minister Aganga for their courage and commitment in initiating the sugar policy and staying the course with its implementation.”