The federal government yesterday said going forward, the approval for raw sugar quota allocations to refineries would be strictly based on their commitment to the Backward Integration Programme (BIP) which they have signed onto.
This was just as the government also dispelled reports on an alleged suspension of sale or production of sugar in the country, a development which erroneously suggested that there was a sugar scarcity.
The Executive Secretary/Chief Executive, National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), Mr. Zacch Adedeji, said subsequent quota allocation would no longer depend on the size of refining capacity, but the extent to which operators have complied with the BIP policy which seeks to among other things limit importation of the commodity as well as create millions of jobs for Nigerians.
Speaking at the formal presentation of the 2022 Presidential Approval for Raw Sugar Quota Allocations to Refineries, he said, allocations were given to operators as a way of rewarding them for efforts they have made in complying to the BIP adding “that is what the law says and that is what we are going to do going forward.”
The meeting also had the operators reaffirm their commitment towards the faithful implementation of the backward integration policy.
Adedeji said the stakeholders’ engagement was to further dissect and discuss critical issues bordering on the meaningful implementation of the Nigerian Sugar Master Plan (NSMP) as well as share perspectives on emerging sectoral issues which are critical to the attainment of the sugar self-sufficiency target.
The 10-year sugar roadmap which came into being on January 2013, was still far from achieving its main target of self-sufficiency though remarkable milestones had been recorded – and an extension of its implementation timeline approved according to sources.
Adedeji said the council’s decision to make a public presentation of the approved presidential raw sugar quota was in furtherance of its commitment to transparency, honesty and accountability in the discharge of its duties as a government agency.
He added that all BIP operators were by law mandated to operate strictly within the provisions of the master plan which is no longer a policy but now an Act of the National Assembly following its amendment in 2015.
Threatening sanctions against operators, he said, “We shall no longer condone or tolerate deliberate distortion of the master plan by anyone. I wish to at this point reiterate the Council’s firm position on the supremacy of the master plan, which we see as the Quran and Bible of the sugar sector.”
The NSDC boss stressed that the council remained fully committed to making the sugar sector environment more business-friendly and transparent in its engagement with existing and prospective investors through policy formulation and technical support.
He said the President Muhammadu Buhari – led administration had demonstrated its profound interest in the sector in so many ways particularly by launching the $73 million irrigation infrastructure intervention fund recently.
However, commenting on a publication in some sections of the media credited to BUA Foods on the suspension of sugar sales, the NSDC boss said given the strategic importance of the sugar value chain to the Nigerian economy, the “Council wishes to state that there is no known stoppage in sugar production by any of the operators as a result of compliance issues or on the council’s mandate”.
He said, “On the contrary, we wish to state emphatically, that according to our records, Flour Mills Nigeria (owners of golden sugar) is in fact the best performing BIP operator in the industry.
“There’s no suspension of sale or production of sugar in the country and actually, the stock that we have is enough for us and I have made it clear to them (operators) that there should be an end to this kind of propaganda and sentiment. The council will not take it easy with anybody. As such, we must reassure Nigerians and dispel any fears on scarcity of sugar in the country. The Council is always ready to provide policy or technical support to any of the operators to enhance its operations.”
“We know there are challenges in the sector, but it is far better if those challenges are communicated through the right channels and platforms, instead of resorting to sharp practices capable of reversing all the modest gains so far recorded in the sector.”
He stressed that the sugar industry will be managed through the NSMP and not by sentiments or propaganda.
According to him, “Indeed, the sugar sector holds massive opportunities for our dear country, in terms of jobs, wealth creation and empowerment for the rural populace who live around sugar estates.
“The sugar sector has contributed greatly to Mr. President job creation initiative. Hundreds of our countrymen and women are being employed by sugar estates and refineries across the country.
“The sector is truly working. It is gratifying to say that the sector has positively impacted the economic fortunes of many Nigerians, through direct and indirect jobs. This is why we must all roll up our sleeves, especially with regards to the Backward Integration Programme component of the NSMP.”
Culled from THISDAY