Dangote Sugar Refinery is pumping billions of naira in backward integration projects in Adamawa and Nasarawa states in order to plug the annual sugar imports estimated at N425bn.
In 2021, sugar imports into Nigeria reached N425bn, according to estimates by the National Bureau of Statistics.
But DSR is planning to end the huge import bill by expanding sugar plantations and setting up factories to save Nigeria’s scarce foreign exchange and create millions of jobs.
The investments are also expected to boost the country’s quest for self-sufficiency in sugar production as the country plans to produce 1.5 million tonnes of refined sugar from sugar plantations covering 150,000 hectares of land across various sites.
Speaking with The PUNCH in Numan, the Chief Executive Officer, DSR, Numan, Mr Chinnaya Sylvain Judex, said the company was targeting to produce 9,800 metric tonnes of sugar per day at the end of the current expansion.
He noted that this was in line with the National Sugar Master Plan, targeted at meeting the country’s 1.5 million metric tonnes annual demand in the country.
He disclosed that the company was aiming to commission a boiler and a turbine by October this year to produce 6,000 tonnes of cane per day, noting that there would be an addition of 3000 hectares per year.
“As we produce 3800 tonnes per day, we are upgrading to another 6,300 tonnes per day, and an additional 6000 is coming. The ultimate purpose is to have 9800 tonnes per day,” he said.
He further said that the company had introduced the drip irrigation system that would enable farmers to produce 50 tonnes of sugarcane per hectare, noting that it would boost the incomes of farmers and uplift the community.
“The Outgrower Scheme Programme is a win-win business, hoping the business would better the living standards of the people in host communities,” he noted.
The refinery is also set to generate 32 megawatts of electricity after the upgrading process and is expected to launch the factory into a fully integrated sugar production within Nigeria.
The CEO stated that the company was close to local communities in Numan through the out-grower development scheme targeted at improving farmers’ participation in sugar production in the country and improving cane quality and yields at the mills.
Dangote Sugar also provides free medical care for host communities.
The DSR is not limited to Adamawa State. Its tentacles also extend to Tunga, Nasarawa State, where it is setting up another integrated sugar project.
Speaking with The PUNCH at Tunga, Agric Manager, Nasarawa Sugar Company Limited, Simon Ibetson, said the company had been making steady progress to produce both sufficient cane and refined sugar for the Nigerian economy.
“It is an integrated project. We are looking at producing sugar in a couple of years. Last year, we went up to 600 hectares. By 2024, we have to get up to phase 1, which will be another 2,000 hectares. We will be looking at 54 tonnes per 500 hectares. We are looking at 3,000 hectares by June 2024. We are looking at moving from 3,000 hectares to 6,000 hectares from 2026,” he explained.
Ibetson noted that the company had cleared 3,640 hectares of land already and had done stumping on 2844 hectares, noting that it planned to clear more fields.
“We have done the bush clearing and we have done the stumping. We are getting the implements. We will have 3,000 hectares that we will be able to harvest in January 2025 and this will move to 6,000 by 2026. That is the plan.”
He further explained that the company was looking at 70-75 yield per hectare and had the ability to go higher.
In terms of sugar production, it would have the capacity to produce 12,000 metric tonnes of sugar per day when completed.
On his part, the Emir of Tunga, Muhammad Ibrahim Shaibu, said the coming of the Dangote Group had improved the communities in the local government and changed the lives of young people.
“Before the coming of this company, there had been a series of skirmishes between herders in Nasarawa State and the farmers in Benue and Taraba. But with the coming of Dangote, security has improved.
“The coming of Dangote has reduced unemployment drastically because when you came to this town before, you would see these unemployed youths. But now, once it is 6 o’clock, you will see them in trucks going to their farms. This, to me, is a great achievement. It has reduced unemployment with its attendant results. The community just had to give their adequate cooperation. It came at the right time in the sense that it is the time youths are involved in all forms of vices.”
He disclosed that Dangote Sugar had brought boreholes, provided scholarships to youths from secondary to tertiary levels, and built residential areas for the personnel at the health centres.
“The scholarship scheme covers the entire local government. If we were to restrict it to Tunga, we would even be afraid of sabotage. My advice is for the people of the community to cooperate because this man has been sinking a lot of money here. He has not even taken any sugar, and that is why we have to cooperate with him.”