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Revamp paper industry to meet domestic capacity- LCCI

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Revamp paper industry to meet domestic capacity- LCCI

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and other stakeholders have called for the revamping of the paper and print industry to minimally meet domestic capacity production of three million metric tonnes.

They spoke at a seminar organised by the LCCI with the theme: “Challenges, Prospects and Raw Materials Demand in the Printing, Packaging and Publishing Industry” on Thursday in Lagos.

LCCI President, Dr Michael Olawale-Cole, noted that Nigeria by the third quarter of 2021 spent N410 billion on importation of paper making material, paperboard articles, and exported N1.3 billion during the same period.

Olawale-Cole noted that the country’s installed production capacity remained at an abysmally low level of 200 thousand metric tons, thereby making importation of raw materials inevitable.

He stated that Nigeria, as Africa’s second-largest importer of printing and paper processing technologies, was illogical given its huge arable land and abundant forest resources across the country.

The LCCI president called for legislative backing and harmonised regulatory framework for printing, packaging and publishing to spur investment in critical midstream and downstream segments of the value chain.

He stressed the need to chart the course for self-sufficiency in the production of raw materials by exploring opportunities for the production of fibrous and cellulose materials from many seasonal plants in addition to wood.

“In yesteryears, we used to have paper mills that were able to process enough raw materials to meet local demand.

“But failure to increase production capacity consistently in line with fast increasing population and growing demand for products, in addition to the collapse of the government established paper mills has pushed the once-thriving sector to the precipice.

“Consequently, the inability to process and manufacture quality paper, which is a major raw material occasioned capacity underutilisation in printing and publishing industry.

“General policy inertia of the government and the issue of import duty of between 20-30 per cent imposed by the government on semi-finished products (paper and boards) while printed textbooks attract 0 per cent, is a disincentive to investment in local production.

“We must seek how to reposition Nigeria’s packaging industry for global competitiveness to unlock economic potentials against the backdrop of rising demand for e-commerce and packaging services (local and global) as fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

Mrs Funmilayo Okeowo, Chairperson, Pulp, Paper products, Printing and Publishing, LCCI, noted that the sector was very critical to the educational well-being of Nigerians and the national economy.

She stated that the sector grappled with challenges such as the high cost of paper and associated imports, high foreign exchange, poor finance, unstable tariffs, poor policy, and inadequate research efforts.

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

“Kenaf can produce a paper that requires less energy while substantially reducing the environmental pollution.

“With $10million, we can create a cluster of paper mills of about 500-600 all over the nation; this will improve the foreign exchange and the economy at large,” she said.

Dr Lola Akande, Commissioner, Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Cooperatives, (MCIC) Lagos, emphasised the increasing need to grow and develop a viable paper and printing industry for the growth of the Nigerian economy.

Akande, represented by Mr John Ogunbowale, a director in the ministry noted that continued dependence on importation of papers and related materials had a negative effect on the country’s foreign exchange and economic development.

She reiterated the state government’s commitment to economic development programmes that would consolidate its position as the largest contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nigeria.

“Statistics according to the Chartered Institute of Professional Printers of Nigeria (CIPPON) show that Nigeria spends about three trillion Naira annually on paper-related imports.

“This industry has potentials for huge employment generation which is critical to our economic development and also play important role in the socio-educational sector of our dear country.

“As a state government, we will continue to evolve investment friendly policies that would act as a catalyst for the development of the various sectors of the economy”, she added.

Also, Commissioner for Industry, Trade, and Investment, Lagos State, Mrs Kikelomo Longe, emphasised the need to identify creative ways of sourcing inputs locally.

She noted that research showed that agro-waste could potentially be converted to paper pulp.

“This will doubtlessly drive down the production cost of paper manufacturers, and in effect influence the establishment of new businesses in the alternative-paper pulp market,” she said.

Responding, Director, Industrial Development, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr Adewale Bakare, said the ministry was currently working towards the resuscitation and strategic development of the sector.

This, he said, was by setting up an inter-agency committee mandated to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the collapse of the privatised paper mills and find lasting solutions for their revitalisation with a view to coming up with a sector specific policy.

Bakare, represented by Mrs Olumuyiwa Ajayi-Ade, a Deputy Director in the ministry, said the workshop was in line with the Federal Government’s National Development Plan (2021-2025) and the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) championed by the ministry.

He noted that Nigerians could not be exempted from the global paper and printing industry, since the sector played a significant role in the growth, development, and industrialisation of many economies.

“The government is optimistic that with the implementation of the sectoral policy, the pulp & paper industry will be repositioned to be one of the foremost sectors to drive the economic recovery,” he said.

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