Key Policies to Reverse Over 500 Billion Naira Spent Every Year on Importing Paper Products | The Guardian Nigeria News

…FG plans to resuscitate struggling paper industry
Operators in the pulp, paper products, printing and publishing industry have raised concerns about low investment in the sector’s value chain due to policies and government regulations, despite the growing demand for paper products.

According to them, the amount spent on importation remains a source of concern for the industry as N410 billion was spent on importation of papermaking equipment, cardboard items in the third quarter of 2021, with a trajectory showing over 500 billion naira by the end of the year, compared to a paltry export value of 1.3 billion naira.

Already, operators are proposing new tree species to increase access to raw materials.

In addition, the federal government, through the Department of Industry, Trade and Investment, has announced its intention to revive the ailing paper industry by establishing an interagency committee to investigate the causes immediate and distant signs of the collapse of privatized paper mills in the country.

The Director of Industrial Development, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Adewale Bakare, represented by the Deputy Director, Ms. Olumuyiwa Ajayi-Ade, explained that the objective is to find sustainable solutions for their revitalization with a view to sectoral policy.

Bakare said so during a workshop organized by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), titled “Raw Material Demand and Supply in Pulp and Paper Mills in Nigeria”.

According to him, the workshop came within the framework of the growth of the pulp, paper and printing sector in Nigeria, which is in line with the Federal Government’s National Development Plan (2021-2025) and the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) championed by the ministry.

“These plans focus on sectors with high job creation potential and have the capacity to create multiplier effects on other sectors for sustainable holistic national development,” he said.

Earlier, LCCI Chairman, Dr. Michael Olawale-Cole noted that Nigeria in the third quarter of 2021 spent N410 billion on importing paper-making materials, cardboard items and exported N1.3 billion during the same period.

He noted that the country’s installed production capacity remained at an extremely low level of 200,000 metric tons, thus making the importation of raw materials inevitable.

The LCCI boss said Nigeria, as Africa’s second largest importer of printing and paper processing technology, was illogical given its huge arable land and abundant forest resources across the country.

He pointed out that the growing demand for e-commerce and packaging indicates an expected sustained demand for innovative products in the future, as more and more business processes become digitized and automated.

He called for legislative support and a harmonized regulatory framework for printing, packaging and publishing to stimulate investment in the critical middle and downstream segments of the value chain.

He said it was necessary to pave the way to self-sufficiency in the production of raw materials by exploring the possibilities of producing fibrous and cellulosic materials from many seasonal plants in addition to wood.

This, he said, would create a more sustainable source of raw materials and help preserve our environment.

“Previously, we had paper mills that could process enough raw materials to meet local demand, but we failed to increase production capacity consistently in line with the rapid increase in population and of the growing demand for products, in addition to the collapse of paper established by the government. mills pushed the once flourishing sector to the precipice.

“As a result, the inability to process and manufacture quality paper, which is a major raw material, has led to underutilization of capacity in the printing and publishing industry.

“General government policy inertia and the issue of 20-30% import duties imposed by the government on semi-finished products (paper and board) while printed textbooks attract 0%, discourages investment in local production.

“We need to look at how to reposition the Nigerian packaging industry for global competitiveness to unlock economic potentials amid the growing demand for e-commerce and packaging services (local and global) following the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19,” he said.

The Chairperson, Pulp, Paper Products, Printing and Publishing, LCCI, Mrs. Funmilayo Okeowo, noted that the sector was very important to the educational welfare of Nigerians and to the national economy.

She said the sector is grappling with challenges such as the high cost of paper and associated imports, high exchange rates, poor finance, unstable tariffs, poor policy and inadequate research efforts.

Okeowo has proposed the use of Kenaf for paper production, which offers environmental benefits over reproducing paper from trees.

“Kenaf can produce paper that requires less energy while significantly reducing environmental pollution. With 10 million dollars, we can set up a group of paper mills of about 500 to 600 all over the country; it will improve currencies and the economy as a whole,” she said.

The business mogul also called for the revitalization of paper mills to meet the national capacity of three million metric tons, the planting of environmentally friendly trees and more funding to support research in forestry and related fields.

Bakare added that the recent rise in paper prices has raised concerns among various stakeholders as the country can no longer afford to depend on imported paper for consumption due to high pressure on currencies and the effect resulting on all related products. Hence the need to come together to find a way forward to address the root causes of this preventable situation.

He said that in an effort to address the situation in the pulp and paper sector of the economy, the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, is currently working to the resuscitation and strategic development of the sector by setting up an Agency Inter-Committee whose mandate was to investigate the distant and immediate causes of the collapse of privatized paper mills and to find sustainable solutions for their revitalization.

He added, “The government is optimistic that with the implementation of the sectoral policy, the pulp and paper industry will be repositioned to be one of the key sectors to drive the nation’s economic recovery. , thereby creating huge employment opportunities and income generation along all its extended value chains.

Also speaking, the Commissioner for Industry, Trade and Investment, Ms. Kikelomo Longe, said historical data shows that the pulp and paper mill sector was thriving in Nigeria, adding that in fact, the country had three paper companies that produced thousands of tons of paper products per year.

According to her, the success recorded in this sector has since diminished, due to the persistent challenges plaguing its operations, pointing out that the pulp and paper mill sector has become moribund, leaving the country with another significant revenue shortfall.

She added that it is on this premise that the focus should be on the need to identify creative ways to source inputs locally.

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