The Executive Secretary of the National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), Dr Latif D. Busari, has joined the growing list of prominent Nigerians who have thrown their weight behind the border closure policy of the federal government.
Fielding questions from Business Correspondents on the activities of his Council in the outgoing year, Dr Busari said the closure of the border has boosted the sale of local sugar as manufacturers now smile to the banks.
He said prior to the border closure and even with an existing ban on refined sugar importation, some unscrupulous persons were in the business of smuggling refined sugar into the country and re-bagging them as local brands, thereby making Nigerians consume foreign sugar in the name of local ones. This he said is no longer the case as local producers are having their ways.
He however declined to state the figures of the renewed sales, adding that at the end of the year when each of the local sugar companies open their books, the actual figures in terms of sales will be clear.
With the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA) in place, Dr Busari admitted that the border closure is not a sustainable policy since “you cant sign free trade agreement and shut your borders.”
He however expressed the hope that the National Sugar Master Plan (NSMP), a ten year plan launched in 2013 which is aimed at reaching 1.8 million metric tones of annual sugar production and putting the country in good position for self sufficiency, is allowed to fulfill its laudable objectives before the AFCTA takes full effect.
According to him, with the AFCTA in place in the long run, there will no longer be a ban on refined sugar importation.
“Our immediate objective is self sufficiency in sugar production which is what we are vigorously pursuing with the NSMP. But that is not all. After achieving self sufficiency, the next goal is to start exporting. As soon as we are exporting, the next target will be to be a formidable global player in the sugar industry,” he said.
“But you know you can’t export to other countries and say others will not bring to your country. That is why we are looking for a ten year window for our local sugar companies to buckle up and be able to compete. The idea is that we must produce competitively in terms of price and quality. This is because refined sugar will begin to come in, in the long run and if foreign sugar is better or cheaper, trust that Nigerians will abandon local sugar and buy foreign ones,” he added.