THE Federal Government, has kicked-off the implementation of the country’s sugar master plan.

The Minister of Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, said the new master plan, which was recently approved by the Federal Executive Council, was expected to raise the country’s local sugar production to a self-sufficiency level; stem the tide of high importation of the commodity; contribute to the production of ethanol/ generation of about 411MW of electricity; and create 117,181 jobs.

Aganga spoke during the first stakeholders’ forum on the master plan in Abuja on Monday, where he unveiled the new master plan and its implementation strategy.

According to the minister, the initiative is the product of several consultations with all the stakeholders in the sugar industry.

He said: “We held several consultations with all the stakeholders in the sugar industry. At the end of that consultation, the product was a sugar master plan and then a government policy.

“Again, after further discussions with stakeholders and relevant ministries, thesSugar master plan was approved by the Federal Executive Council. Now, we have a sugar master plan, from sugarcane to sugar production.

“This is the first time that we have gone through the details of the sugar roadmap, policies and incentives that are available and the game plan of where we want to be at the end of the implementation of the plan. As at today, we only produce two per cent of the sugar we need in the country while we import raw sugar.”

The minister added: “If you compare this to other West African countries, that two per cent is the lowest. For instance, Benin Republic produces 25.6 per cent of their sugar requirement; Burkina Faso, 47 per cent; Cote d’Ivoire, 54 per cent; Senegal, 48 per cent and Mali, 28 per cent.

“In spite of having both comparative and competitive advantage to produce sufficient quantity of the commodity for domestic consumption and for export, Nigeria does not feature in the top 10 producers and exporters in the world but we are number four in terms of top 10 importers in the world. That is not where we want to be.”

He noted that the Federal Government had already put in place fresh incentives to support existing and new investors. These include: zero per cent on machinery and spare parts for local sugar manufacturing industries; outright ban on the importation of refined sugar in retail packs and 30 per cent tax credit on the cost of provision of critical infrastructure by sugar cane to sugar project investors.

Aganga said: “To invest in sugar production, for new players, it is a long-term plan and costs a lot of money. So, we want to ensure that the policies are predictable and consistent.”

Already, the National Assembly is working on a Bill to support the Sugar Master Plan. So, we will work with them to get that in place so that there will be certainty. The second thing for new players is that we will support them with sugar varieties. That is where the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Sugar Development Council come in.

“We will help them to acquire land. Already, I have started discussions with two state governors to help investors acquire land in their states. Also, the Sugar Council will help them conduct feasibility studies. In addition to that, the levy on importation of sugar will go into a fund which will be managed by the Bank of Industry. The idea is for us to be able to make loans available to investors at a single interest rate.”

He added: “Any importation of equipment that will be used for the manufacturing of sugar is duty-free and there is a tax holiday initially for about five years. So there are a lot of incentives, which we have put in place to encourage investors to come into the sector, and also a lot of policy directives to make sure that existing refiners serving the Nigerian economy and Nigerians go back to backward integration.”

Speaking during the event, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Investment, Senator Nenadi Usman, said the Senate has been working on a Bill that would support the implementation of the new Sugar Master Plan.

“The new master plan is one of the best things that have happened to our country. Nigeria has no business importing sugar because we have all it takes to be self-sufficient and even export sugar to other countries. We are already working on a bill that will support the implementation of the new masterplan,” she said.

source: ngrguardiannews

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