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Boosting Sugar Cane Farming to Create Jobs

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  • Boosting Sugar Cane Farming to Create Jobs

Nigeria is one of the major producers of sugarcane in Africa, with about 500,000 hectares of land which can produce about five million metric tonnes (mt) of sugarcane.

According to the National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), the five million metric tonnes (Mt) of sugarcane will yield about three million mt of sugar if processed.

However, despite the country’s potential in sugar production for local consumption, its reliance on importation has become worrisome as it produces only two per cent of its sugar requirement. Nigeria imports about 1.7 million tonnes of sugar, up from 1.3 million tonnes in 2016.

To address this, there have been various private sector efforts to encourage increase in acreage and cultivation.

It was against this backdrop that the sleepy town of Mokwa in Niger State witnessed the inauguration of the Sunti Golden Sugar Estates Limited, a subsidiary of Flour Mills of Nigeria (FMN ), by President Muhammadu Buhari.

According to Buhari, the N50 billion estate will produce 100,000 tonnes of high quality raw sugar annually to feed Flour Mills Sugar Refinery.

His words: “While we have had some challenges in the implementation of the National Sugar Master Plan (NSMP) in the past, I believe that our vision of attaining self-sufficiency in sugar in Nigeria is well within sight, with the kind of investment that has been made here. I am told that the Estate will engage up to 10,000 people directly once developed, including a network of over 3,000 small-scale outgrowers of sugarcane. This to my mind is central to this administration’s determination to create jobs and gainfully engage our people.”

Niger State Governor Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello said the decision by Flour Mills to set up a sugarcane plantation in Sunti was the kind of step the state needed to actualise its quest to boost agriculture. The investment, according to him, is also an evidence of the unexploited potential in the sector.

Such ventures, he stressed, are needed and the plantation in particular in Niger State is timely, especially when the overnment is working towards developing a sustainable, diversified and competitive agricultural sector to ensure greater economic stability and growth.

He added that the state was interested in ensuring that more investors established enterprises to create jobs to improve people’s livelihood.

Bello said: “For a long time now, lack of infrastructure has been one of the major hindrances to investment in agriculture. To this end, the government is working to support infrastructure across the state.”

He said while the state appreciated and welcomed investors as partners in development, it expected them to take part by investing in agriculture and helping to grow the economy and eradicate poverty.

“Niger people are proud farmers. For many years, we have cultivated rice, sorghum, millet, cowpeas, corn (maize), palm oil and kernels, kola nuts and sugarcane for local consumption and export. To this end, agriculture has always been a top priority for our state and will always receive our utmost support.

“When we declared 2018 as the year of ‘Agricultural revolution,’ in Niger State, it was a reminder to our people of the immense natural resources that we have been blessed with. And that is why projects such as the Sunti Sugar Estate are a perfect model for investment in our state. From my last visit to Sunti Golden Sugar Estates in 2016 to date, I must say that I am delighted with the level of work and investment that has been put into this project,” Bello said.

Flour Mills Chairman Mr. John Coumantaros said: “The farm at peak production will provide direct employment for about 10,000 people yearly, and impact up to 50,000 people indirectly, including 3,000 small-scale outgrowers, who will be cultivating sugar cane to feed the mill.

“The project illustrates the desire to reduce sugar importation, save billions in foreign exchange, boost local capacity and reduce unemployment by putting thousands of Nigerians to work,” he said.

He thanked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Bank of Industry (BoI), the Ministries of Finance, Industry, Trade and Investment and Agriculture for their support for the project, adding that “a project of this nature could never have taken place without the staunch support of Mr President and the Niger State Governor.”

He said N50 billion had been invested in the Sunti Golden Sugar Estate. The company, he said, has significantly invested in food and agro-allied value chains to align with the government’s agricultural initiatives.

Flour Mills, he explained, is determined to ensure the success of agro-allied investments through maximising local content in the company’s final products while it remains committed to its policy of being involved at all stages of the food value chain: from farm to table.

Enclosed within a 35-kilometre dyke, the production facility area is about 17,000 hectares, with a cane area of a maximum output of 10,000 hectares.

The estate features the state-of-the-art irrigation system that will ensure efficient cultivation of sugar cane, with infrastructure, which includes drain pumps, pump stations and power grid.

Drains, culverts and flood-protection walls have also been constructed. The state-of-the art operations bring new technology to the sugar cane farming and milling industry that is poised to increase production yield, create new jobs for Nigerians and teach them new skills. Currently, sugar cane is grown on 3,000 hectares and cultivated under irrigation, making it an annual crop, with 276 hectare (ha) furrow, 700ha pivot and the balance under sprinkler irrigation.

It is harvested by hand and transported by road to the factory using haulage tractors to pull a pair of tandem trailers with a capacity for 30 tonnes of cane.

The estate has brought infrastructure benefits to the surrounding community, with 28 communities taking advantage of the new 30-kilometre road plus expansive road networks, which provide a variety of access routes to indigenes’ homes.

At the farm, smart agriculture is helping the company increase crop yield,optimise workers and machines performance .

Processing will ensure every part of the cane is used.

As a result of the steady demand for skilled workers, which will grow, Niger State will draw labour from other states, and provide training for local workers.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Economy

FG Launches New N25bn Youth Fund to Address Some of the Concerns Raised by #EndSARS Protesters

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Zainab Ahmed

FG Introduces N25 Billion Youth Fund

The Federal Government has introduced a new N25 billion youth fund to address some of the issues raised by the Nigerian youths who took to the street to demand good governance, among others.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, disclosed this at a stakeholder meeting held with the Deputy Governor of Kaduna State, Dr. Hadiza Balarabe, in Kaduna.

Ahmed said the fund would be increased from N25 billion to N75 billion within three years to ensure new job creation for the youths.

The meeting was constituted as part of the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari to ministers and governors to dialogue with stakeholders on some of the concerns raised by #EndSARS protesters.

The finance minister said the aim was to support the Nigerian youths to actualise their innovative and entrepreneurial minds in business and general development of the nation.

On her part, Balarabe said the essence of the meeting was to brainstorm on how to tackle security challenges faced during the #EndSARS protests.

Dr Mohammad Abubakar, the Minister of Environment, who was also at the meeting, reiterated Federal Government’s commitment to people-friendly policies and reforms.

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Economy

Kwara to Support Looted Businesses With N500 Million

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Kwara State to Fund Looted Businesses With N500 Million

Kwara State has joined the list of states supporting businesses that were looted and vandalised by hoodlums masquerading as #EndSARS protesters.

Mr. AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, the Governor of Kwara State, during a visit to the Kwara Mall and Agro Mall on Saturday said the state will support affected businesses with N500 million, adding that the funding is to reduce the negative impact of the looting on the state economy.

On Sunday, in a statement issued by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Rafiu Ajakaye, the Governor said the vandalism and looting may bring several businesses to their knees and lead to massive job loss with an increase in poverty rate.

He said, in order to avoid this, “We are setting up a N500 million fund for those that were affected to access.”

“The application form is live and active on the state government’s website and can now be filled by interested parties. We are going to get them back as soon as possible,” he assured.

The governor, who described the situation as a mindless looting of people’s businesses, said there can be no justification for such criminal behavour in our society and commiserated with affected owners.

Speaking on accusation of hoarding of palliatives, the Governor said the palliatives were donated by Private sector led CACOVID to specific vulnerable households and were being distributed gradually across the state.

What happened was bareface stealing and some people are playing politics with it. This is not the time to play politics. It is a time for all hands to be on deck. It is not just Kwara they wanted to burn down. They wanted to burn the whole country down. I urge all of us to stand up and resist that,” he said.

“We engaged the #EndSARS youth in Kwara and it worked out for us. They were not violent. They had a five-point agenda which the federal government has agreed to and has started implementing. In Kwara State, we have also set up a judicial panel of inquiry to look into the allegation of Police abuse. I also visited Police barracks to see how we can improve the welfare of the Police in the state.

“While the hoodlums were looting (on Friday), I was holding a meeting with executives and members of the National Association of Kwara State Students and National Association of Nigeria Students, Kwara axis. It shows students and youths were not part of the looting. Those involved were just hoodlums and thieves,” he said.

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Economy

IMF to Review Nigeria’s Growth Forecast Amid Destruction of Businesses, Properties

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IMF Says it May Review Nigeria’s Growth  Amid Recent Development in the Country

Following the destruction of businesses and properties that trailed the #EndSARS protest, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said it may review the nation’s growth forecast in view of the new development in the country.

Abebe Selassie, the Director, African Department, International Monetary Fund, made the statement while responding to questions during a virtual IMF press conference on the economic outlook of Sub-Saharan Africa on Thursday.

According to him, the protest is difficult given that Lagos is a very important economic hub and contributes to the overall Nigeria activities.

Selassie said, “On the growth projections in Nigeria, I mean, these protests happened of course, after we had closed, after the period where the data we looked at in making the growth projections for this economic outlook.

“And much will depend really on how these protests evolve.

“Lagos of course, is a very important economic hub and contributes quite a bit of economic activity to overall Nigeria activities.

“So, if these persist and are showing significant effects on economic data, we will internalise them in due course.”

He further explained that the nation’s economy had been a difficult one in the last four years ever since oil prices plunged in 2015-16.

He said, “I think this is exactly why we have been on the record in Nigeria about how really critical it is to get all of the policy induced barriers out of the way to facilitate stronger economic growth.

“For the government to do more to raise revenues through the area of non-oil resources to be able to invest in health education which would, you know, allow people to be more successful at getting jobs but also improve the economy’s potential.

“So, I think that development agenda that Nigeria has, I think, has to be tackled with gusto and vigor so that the millions of jobs that the country needs can be created.”

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