The Backward Integration Programme (BIP), of the federal government on self sufficiency in sugar production is gathering momentum as BUA Group is investing massively at its $300million Lafiagi Sugar Company’s (LASUCO) site. YUSUF BABALOLA writes.
One of the focal points of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is how Nigeria can sufficiently feed herself without importation of agricultural raw materials or finished goods.
Due to the pressure on the foreign exchange, the federal government is banning some items from officially accessing the foreign exchange market especially items that can be sufficiently produced locally.
For instance, government has banned importers of rice, leather, textiles, groundnut -oil among others from accessing the forex market because the present administration believes that Nigeria can sufficiently produced these food items for Nigeria consumption.
However, to achieve sugar sufficiency, the government introduced the National Sugar Master Plan (NSMP) under the Backward Integration Programme (BIP) to develop Nigeria sugar industry as well as self sufficiency.
NSMP is a road map designed to make the Nigerian sugar industry transform into a world class multi-product sugarcane industry.
In line with the federal government’s Transformation Agenda to make Nigeria one of the top 20 economies in the world, the NSMP was introduced with the aim of reinvigorating the sugar industry to contribute to the overall goal of the agenda.
The NSMP provides a framework for setting goals, defining key actions, and generating and allocating resources to fund programmes in the industry.
Given the inability of Nigeria to become self-sufficient in sugar production over the years, sugar has remained an expensive commodity in the country but, with the over $300million investment by BUA Group in the Lafiagi Sugar Company (LASUCO), Lafiagi, Kwara State, it aim to reduce nation’s sugar importation.
LASUCO, also has an integrated milling factory that comprised of Sugar mill, Ethanol plant, sugar refinery and power plant that will be integrated into the national grid.
The company has a 220metric tonne capacity sugar refinery sitting on 20,000 hectares of land bordering the River Niger has attained 67 percent completion with all critical machineries already on ground and awaiting installation. This was even as one of its anxcilliary project with installed capacity of 20million liters of ethanol has already been completed and set for commissioning.
The remaining 33 percent consisting of civil engineering works and machinery installations would be completed before the end 2021 to enable the takeoff of a pilot test run.
Other infrastructures already up and running to facilitate the realisation of the sugar city include, an airstrip that can host Boeing 737 aircraft, a fully functional Research and Development laboratory, a 7.5kilometer bypass to take cargo and vehicular movements off Ilorin, the state capital and adjoining towns.
Also under construction are a 235 -kilometers of road network to enhance free movement of traffic in and out of the facility, 200 housing units for all categories of staff, healthcare facility, as well as educational institutions for children of staff members and the host community.
Meanwhile, BUA’s in -house engineer said over 7000 hectares of land has been cleared even as the Nigerian Airforce is in talks with the management to use the airstrip for the training of its pilots.
Only last year, Netafim of Israel, global leaders in irrigation and hydro technology entered into an agreement with BUA to construct a drip and sprinkler irrigation scheme with water sourced from the River Niger.
Speaking, during a facility tour of the company in Lafiagi, Kwara state, the senior general manager, LASUCO, Abdul-Rasheed Olayiwola said the company is an integrated milling factory.
He also said since 2014 that the company has taken over LASUCO, the group has invested heavily to ensure that the BIP programme of the federal government become a success.
He said, “BUA group has made over $300million investment so far on this project and when it becomes operational by first quarter of 2021, we will have 5,000 direct staff and over 10,000 indirect staff.”
He continued, “We will have farmers, loaders, truckers and other auxiliary services providersbwhobare basically the locals and Nigerias.”
He further stated that the National Sugar Council of Nigeria (NSCN) who have visited the site numerous times have acknowledged their investment and they are looking up to the company to lead the realisation of the sugar master plan of the federal government. They always leave this site fully satisfied that BUA is on course,” he said.
“LASUCO is one of the site highly rated by the sugar Council. They have said Lafiagi is the main BIP project they are looking up to and that no sugar plantation has come near it in the country. LASUCO is an integrated factory that has Sugar mill, Ethanol plant, sugar refinery and power plant that wil also be integrated into the national grid for everyone to benefit.”
Giving a breakdown of the Integrated sugar factory, Olayiwola said, “ The Integrated factory will produce 20milion ethanol per annum from the plant, a sugar refinery of 220,000 metric tonnes, a 35 mega watt of electricity for the factory and as to be connected to the national grid for Nigerians to consume and a 10,000 tcd capacity sugar mill.
“Others sugar refineries have 3000 tonnes of sugar cane per day and this is even brown sugar because they have no equipment to refine to white sugar but ours will be doing 10,000 metric tonnes cane per day.”
He said the company was firstly allocated 5000 hectares of land but after seeing the commitment of the company into the BIP, it was allocated another 15,000 hectares to make 20,000 hectares.
Also speaking, head of projects at Lasuco Mr Labaran Saidu, said the sugar factory on completion would employ 5000 direct workers and over 10000 indirectly largely from the host community.
According to him, the integrated sugar factory and mill could hold over 3000 trucks per day is one of the few sites rated by the National Sugar Council to drive Nigeria’s Sugar Masterplan.
The BUA Group head of corporate communication, Mr Otega Ogra said only BUA group is the only sugar refiner in the country building a fully integrated plantation that has an end to end planting process.
He said, “The sugar master plan is to encourage Nigeria to produce its sugar locally and of the three refiners that were asked to go back and invest in local production, we are the only one who have decided to do a fully integrated plantation that has an end to end planting process.
“From planting the canes to converting them to refined sugar to doing ethanol through the bi-products of sugar cane as well as bio-gas to produce power. This is the only plantation of all the BIP sites in Nigeria as at now that have a sugar mill on construction, sugar refinery on construction and an ethanol plant as well as power plant and this is the only organisation following the Nigeria sugar master plan.
“We don’t take half measure and hopefully before first quarter of 2022 we would have finished construction of the refinery the growth of our plantation would have matched the crushing of sugar to the refinery as well as ethanol for commercial purposes,” he said.