The Chairperson, Printing, Publishing and Allied Group of Lagos State Chamber Of Commerce & Industry (LCCI), Princess Layo Okeowo, has stated that about N20 billion processing equipment is capable of producing 500 tonnes of paper per day if in full working capacity.

This information was made known to the public recently during a Webinar organised by the Group , themed “Revitalising Nigerian Paper Industry: Challenges & Opportunities in South-Western, Nigeria.”

According to Princess Okeowo, “Investigation has shown that $10million (N4billion) worth of machinery can produce 100tones of paper per day while $50million (N20billion) worth of machinery can produce 500tones of paper per day which could be a good start to the bigger journey ahead to the revitalisation of paper industry which according to her is a goldmine waiting for intelligent investors to explore.” She said

“We need sector-specific policy measures to relate activities in the paper and allied product industry. Collaboration could also be in the area of research (Paper Research Institute) on how to grow improved trees, own and manage plantations that would feed the mills, as well as the creation of training sectors that would strengthen the skills of young individuals in paper mill operations. Friendly government policies to encourage higher private sector participation in the paper industry is key for local capacity development,” Okeowo emphasized.

During paper presentation by different stakeholders in the printing industry, unavailability of raw materials for paper production was stated as one of the major reasons why investors are shying away from the nation’s multi-billion dollar industry.

Investing in certain tree species that have a shorter gestation period of six months and developing a backward integration plan for the paper and pulp industry, Nigeria could be able to revive the moribund paper mills and also create addition mills for local capacity development.

Stakeholders in the industry noted that there is an urgent need to partner the South-western States in the country to engage in mass production of raw materials in order to tackle the paper challenge in Nigeria.

While addressing the option of sourcing for foreign exchange to import the pulp in the immediate as an interim solution, Okeowo stated that designing a programme that would see Nigeria grow plantations of suitable trees as a long-term solution was equally proffered, but the latter option was never pushed for implementation.

“Nigeria paper industry needs clusters of smart investors who can tap into the potential of raw material availability in the country. The major area of investment will be the aspect of machinery as the raw materials needed will be readily available.

Regional Principal Officer, African Development Bank, Dr. Olufunso Somorin, said Nigeria must enter into partnership with countries where most of the raw materials are being exported to address the raw material shortage in the short term.

Somorin says: “We need to solve the raw material procurement issues in the shortest time possible, although it is not a long term solution, but part of our long term continuum. It is important to develop a partnership as supposed leaving it to market forces. The demand must be met at all cost, but presently, we are creating opportunities for other countries as supposed creating investment opportunities for ourselves.”

According to him, bilateral agreement with identified countries known for exporting raw materials to Nigeria would provide an enabling environment that allows the private sector to have access to these raw materials under a pricing system that is pre-agreed and supportive of the investment in Nigeria.

“We also need to recalibrate our medium term investment in new paper mills to the future direction of the demand. Very few states see forestry as part of the nation’s industrialization drive. It is a missing link and we must see it as part of our industrialization plans,” he stressed

He added: “In the next 10 to 20 years, we need nothing less than 10 medium to large scale paper mills in Nigeria, because over the next ten years the demand would grow and this paper mills would attract an investment of over $100 million into the country.

Responding to some of the issues raised during the Webinar, the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Ogun State, Kikelomo Longe, stated that the demand in the paper industry is huge and contributes about 10 per cent of the State Gross Domestic Product (GDP). According to her, the gap between supply and demand is enormous, maintaining that the State is very keen to narrowing the gap.

“There is a need to grow the input. Ogun State has about 1.2 million hectares suitable to grow Kenaf, which is a vital raw material for paper production. We are working with willing investors for Kenaf while also attracting investors for paper milling,” she stated.

The Director General, Dawn Commission, Oluseye Oyeleye, said the challenges of the paper industry needs concerted efforts, advising that it is better to focus on States that are agric-oriented.

A Director in the Technology Development Department, Raw Materials Research Development Council (RMRDC), Ogunwusi Abimbola, said bamboo is very vital raw material for paper production, saying that it has been used in Nigeria’s paper industry.

“We are collaborating with research institutes that mass produces raw materials and over 500 people have indicated interest in the production of bamboo. Anybody interested in mass producing raw materials should meet us, we will make sure that they have enough seedling for industrial and sustainable production for every sector of the economy,” he assured.

He said there are lots of agricultural wastes being used in foreign countries, stating that plans are ongoing to see areas it can develop and collaborate with States in South West for paper production.