By Alphonsus E.W
Nigeria is planning a significant increase in its domestic sugar production over the next six years in order to reduce its over-dependence on imports and satisfy growing demand from a population with rising incomes but still faces major challenges such as poor infrastructure.
The government is eager to make the country self-sufficient in sugar by 2020 to cut its $11 billion-a-year food import bill and has announced plans to spur investment in domestic output.
The country is targeting annual production of 1.7 million tonnes of sugar by 2018, a huge increase from the paltry 40,000 tonnes produced in 2012/13, a report by Ecobank said.
Sugar production in Africa’s second biggest economy has been neglected over the past half century as investors poured money into the oil industry, but the government’s eagerness to revive the farming sector and reduce the country’s dependence on oil could bode well for sugar.
“Nigeria has abundant natural resources actually to support sugar growth, but it was abandoned because Nigeria had too much (focus on) oil,” Abdullahi Sule, Managing Director of Dangote Sugar Refinery, told an International Sugar Organisation (ISO) conference.
The President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, said in September he would invest $1.5 billion in sugar cane while his competitor, Flour Mills of Nigeria, also announced plans for investment in sugar production.
However, Nigeria’s poor infrastructure will remain a major barrier to the expansion of sugar production.
“It will take long term and huge investment in public infrastructure and human/material resources for the country to catch up with the current and fast growing demand,” the United States Department for Agriculture said in a report.