…May raise duty on imported tomato paste
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Presidential Task Force on Food Security, yesterday, submitted an Interim Report to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Villa, Abuja.
The task force, which was set up last week, explained that the country was not experiencing food shortage rather Nigerians are groaning under high cost of food prices, due mainly to the increase in transportation of farm produce.
To this end, the task force said it is considering using railway wagons to transport food stuff so as to avoid the multiple taxation on transporters by local governments.
It also noted that should the situation persist, it will resolve to open the nation’s food reserves and release food stuff in order to force down food prices.
The meeting presided over by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, approved a set of measures to boost production and attract investment into the Nigerian tomato sub-sector.
The Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, and the Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Audu Ogbeh, alongside the Ministers of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lai Mohammed, and Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, briefed the press.
According to Enelamah, the task force submitted a preliminary report on its assignment with some recommendations on how to boost tomato production in the country.
He added that the task force recommended, among others, the removal of 20 per cent tariff on greenhouse equipment to reduce the cost of large scale production of the commodity in the country.
He said the task force noted that a lot of farmers were into tomato farming, adding that a state like Kano alone has 75,000 farmers hence the need to encourage them.
Enelamah said, “we approved a set of measures to encourage them both in local production as well as to attract more investment into tomato farming, processing all the way, the value chain to how tomato gets to our tables. These measures will include things we are doing to make sure we plant tomato round the year, things like greenhouse equipment, making sure that they can come in without any barriers or duties. They also include the use of both tariff and non-tariff measures to address the issues that Nigerians are most concerned about, which are the issue of dumping, issues around quality and the standards of what we consume.
“We also approved a set of measures that will boost local production in terms of financing seeds and all the other things. Let me say that the most important thing about these set of policies is that in our approach we are going to be working with the stakeholders to actually implement the polices.
“So we are going to set up an inter-ministerial committee that will work with the private sector and with different stakeholders to make sure that the implementation of the policy itself is not only done transparently but also robustly to ensure that we achieve the desired objective, which is to make sure that we become self-sufficient in tomato within the next one or two years.”
On the issue of tariff to discourage dumping of imported goods in the country, Enelamah said, “the issue of tariff to discourage import and dumping was very central to the approval of the memo. Most definitely, we are not coming down, we are going to go up. We will be announcing what the new tariffs are but clearly there is a new set of tariff that will discourage dumping.
“To boost local production, we are interested in all the input factors that will boost production. On financing, the central bank had been working with tomato farmers already. I am confident that the measure taken will boost production. The Minister of Sscience and Technology is working with us in terms of both the production methods and equipment,” he said.
The Trade Minister also disclosed that plans were on the way to restrict the importation of finished products from other ECOWAS countries into Nigeria.
“We are also going to restrict the importation of finished products from other ECOWAS countries where products are dumped then transported across our borders, making sure those risky products don’t go through our land borders, if you want to import them you have to go through the sea.
“We are going to make sure that in terms of incentives, which goes back to production, the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) will make sure that the production of tomato gets its pioneer status. We are also working on getting finance from the CBN for financing production. We are also working with the Ministry of Agriculture on seedling quality,” he said.