When seeing the productive land for sugar, northern Nigerian farmers have expressed frustration because they say that productivity is wasted without big-time local buyers. Farmers sell sugar cane as snacks on the street while the country imports 97 percent of the sugar it consumes.
Mallam Usman Abdu Gubuci describes himself as one of the sugar-farming “giants” in his area, with five hectares of land. He states that his part of northern Nigeria could be a major supplier of sugar to West Africa, but that farmers no longer even bother to grow sugar that can be refined. “There is special sugar cane for that sugar, which we were introduced with. But when we planted it, there was no buyer… so we ended up wasting our money,” said Gubuci.
Sugar officials say Nigeria spent $620 million on sugar imports in 2012, and they do not expect that number to decline soon.
Hajiya Bilkisu Mohammed, who heads the Association of Women Farmers in northern Nigeria, asserts that part of the reason local farmers cannot sell sugar for refining is that factories in this part of Nigeria have to battle constant electrical shortages. The factories must rely on expensive generators, driving up costs and making their products more expensive.
The Nigerian government also has announced plans to reduce imports of other food products in recent months. In January, President Goodluck Jonathan promised to increase food production by 20 million metric tons by 2015. He announced that increased food production will create 3.5 million jobs and reduce Nigeria’s dependence on imports.
Lack of electricity may be just one reason for the heavy costs of production. Local areas may also need more advertisements. Furthermore, the lack of proper and efficient infrastructure does not allow sugar to be transported effectively within Nigeria.
Potential for economic success is usually accompanied by challenges. For the Nigerian sugar industry, government support and intervention are needed. The local sugar industry needs to help from different directions. To start, it would be advantageous if the government were able to solve the shortage of electricity for factories and give some strategic policy and financial support to cut down the cost of sugar production. Additionally, it is important for the government to strengthen sugar and trade facilities, and transportation infrastructure. Offering more benefits and welfare to workers would attract more investment and encourage more people to get involved. In this way, local factories and farmers become more profitable and can expand their businesses. In this way, Nigeria would have the capacity to become a net exporter of sugar.
– Caiqing Jin(Kelly)