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Paper industry needs research institute

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By Usman Oladimeji

Establishing a paper institute could revive struggling paper mills.

The Managing Director/CEO of FAE Limited, Mrs. Funlayo Bakere-Okeowo, have called on the federal government to create a paper research institute in Nigeria. This institute, she said, would help the country tap into the paper industry’s potential and generate additional foreign exchange revenue. The call was made during a press conference celebrating FAE Limited’s golden jubilee. Bakere-Okeowo believes that establishing a paper institute could revive struggling paper mills in the country and boost the paper industry’s contribution to foreign exchange earnings, placing it on par with crude oil.

She emphasized the importance of research support, suggesting the establishment of a dedicated paper research institution. While the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) is making efforts, a specialized institute focused solely on the paper industry is necessary as paper has the potential to become Nigeria’s next lucrative commodity, akin to oil. The government must focus its attention on the paper industry, which has the potential to become a significant source of foreign exchange, possibly rivalling crude oil. With a tonne of paper currently priced at approximately $1,350 in the global market, the export of finished paper or pulp could lead to substantial profits for Nigeria.

Contribution of the industry to GDP is not significant.

Bakere-Okeowo expressed disappointment over the lack of significant contribution of the paper industry to Nigeria’s GDP, stressing the importance of government support. She urged for the provision of low-interest loans and consistent foreign exchange rates to manufacturers. She mentioned that the company, founded in 1974 by Mrs. Florence Iyabode Adu Bakare, initially as a paper trading business, has since grown to become a leading manufacturer of envelopes in Nigeria, boasting the ability to produce up to one million envelopes daily.

FAE Limited first started by solely selling paper but later expanded its focus to various aspects of the paper industry, with a particular emphasis on manufacturing paper-based products like envelopes. The company’s line-up includes envelopes that are tamper-proof and tear-resistant, featuring a unique indicator that marks them as opened if tampered with. Additionally, it includes Radio Frequency Identification Blocking technology to protect your credit or debit card from unauthorized access, who can remotely access your credit card information from a distance.

Inactivity of major mills is affecting the industry.

According to her, FAE has established itself as the top company in Nigeria for creating, customizing, supplying, and manufacturing envelopes. In addition to Nigeria, FAE also operates in various West African nations including Ghana, Cameroon, Benin, Liberia, Togo, Mali, Senegal, Guinea, Niger Republic, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Cote D’Ivoire, The Gambia, Mauritania, Chad, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea Bissau. On the other hand, Data from the Raw Materials Research and Development Council, Nigeria’s annual expenditure on paper imports amounts to N50 billion.

This is because Nigeria’s paper industry is struggling due to the inactivity of major mills like the Nigeria Paper Mill (NPM) in Jebba, Kwara State, the Nigerian Newsprint Manufacturing Company (NNMC) in Oku Iboku, Akwa Ibom State, and the Nigerian National Paper Manufacturing Company (NNPMC) in Ogun State. Critics believe that the privatization of these mills overlooked the capabilities of the new owners, leading to their current state of disrepair. Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration privatized the paper mills, transferring inefficient and failing government enterprises to private entities.

Related Article: Non-wood fiber can revive paper mills

Privatization of Nigeria’s integrated pulp and paper mills in the mid-2000s stemmed from financial constraints and poor performance. Despite promises to develop the mills, industry experts believe that the new investors are more focused on importing paper from India than improving the mills they acquired. Experts stated that by ensuring the availability of plentiful high-fibre trees, paper companies could resume operations. They pointed out that there remains a vast untapped resource of pulp and paper materials, both fibrous and non-fibrous, within the country.

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