Experts have urged investors to tap the opportunity in non-wood fibre to revive the country’s moribund paper mills.
The experts who spoke at the 2023 edition of International Paper Publishing and Printing Expo said there are indigenous materials spread widely within the middle belt region that can be refined and used as additives in paper making.
This, according to experts, will reduce the country’s paper imports and its allied products while reducing its FX pressure. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that Nigeria spent N1.63 trillion on the importation of paper and paper products in the last five years.
“Zeroing in on what we have been able to achieve at laboratory scale, we can assure us that locally, we have abundant raw materials that we can use to produce pulp and paper,” said Abiodun Oluwadare, a senior lecturer and dean of the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, University of Ibadan during a paper presentation.
Oluwadare shared results of how certain indigenous materials spread widely within the middle belt region and how it can be refined and used as additives in paper making.
He cited an example of non-wood fibre using sugarcane, stating that it can be used in the production of Bagasse which is used in the manufacture of pulp and building materials.
“Presently, we have a primary research project in collaboration with a University in Malaysia. There, we’ve been able to work on these materials,” Oluwadare said.
He said that some of these materials like Seculia, and Stematococcus can readily be grown in Nigeria. Veins (the stalk of the “Moin Moin” leaf) also compete very well with the Pine plant (used in the paper industry).
“For Pine, however, there are areas in Nigeria where Pine can mature within 10 years, and then we can harvest it for paper making.”
According to the researcher, they have been able to produce various modifications of wood and non-wood fibres using two different modulations.
“With more non-wood materials, fewer wood materials are required, and vice-versa,” he noted.
Oluwadare said that by the time these are added together, the country’s paper industry can have a sustainable raw materials production base. “But the question is, without laboratories/centres where we can locally test materials, nothing will come to realisation.”
Speaking also Olugbemi Malomo, president of the Chartered Institute of Professional Printers of Nigeria, “Our goal is to ensure that we produce paper locally in Nigeria, both from wood fibre and also from the non-wood fibre. And the first step for us is research,” said.
Adeniyi Adebayo, minister of Industry, Trade and Investment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in his speech delivered by Olumuyiwa Ajayi-Ade, deputy director, Paper, Pulp, Wood and Industrial Development, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, said:
“We are aware of the importance of the pulp & paper industry because it plays a significant role in the growth, development and industrialisation of many economies across the world.
“Nigeria therefore cannot afford to continue to fold its hands while spending millions of dollars to import paper, especially knowing that it’s endowed with enormous raw materials for its production,” he said.
“The Nigerian pulp and paper industry is a very versatile industry not just because of its enormous inherent untapped potentials but because it traverses and impacts other industries,” he noted.
The Nigerian paper mills have been hard hit by a combination of factors, including poor research & development efforts, lack of funding for research, high production costs, an influx of imported paper products, and policy-related issues among others.