Following the recent directive by the Presidency to the Central Bank of Nigeria not to give foreign exchange (forex) to food importers, the association of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employers (AFBTE) has called on government to engage members of the organised private sector (OPS) and other stakeholders in the food industry to discuss the issues involved more thoroughly before a final position is taken.
President of AFBTE, Mr. Patrick Anegbe, said the employers’ association would government to allow for this step in the spirit of the sustained partnership with it over the years in addressing the various economic issues affecting the Nigerian state.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had towards the end of July announced the decision to deny access to foreign exchange for the importation of milk and other dairy products.
Anegbe noted that the negative economic implications of the move on the performance of the affected companies and the overall economy in the short run have been widely highlighted by experts, industrialists and managers of the targeted businesses.
“One critical aspect is the impact the sudden ban will have on the overall financial results of the companies affected, which will also likely lead to loss of jobs, among others,” he said.
He stated that the OPS had tried to draw the attention of the CBN to the danger in not allowing for a reasonable period of time for those concerned to make adequate preparations to source their imported milk and dairy products locally.
According to him, the engagement on this CBN pronouncement was still on when news came that President Muhammadu Buhari had, at an event in his home state during the Eid-el-Kabir holiday, announced that he had instructed the CBN not to allocate foreign exchange for importation of food.
“While there is need for clarification on this directive regarding whether all food products or some food products are to be affected, it is important to state that this move may end up working against the very reason the plan is being conceived,” he said.
Anegbe maintained that a meeting with stakeholders to discuss the backward integration agenda of government and a follow-up period of moratorium to enable the current food products importing companies to source needs locally would have helped in stemming some of the dangers inherent in these policy pronouncements.