From Magnus Eze and Adanna Nnamani, Abuja
Few days after Erisco Foods Limited threatened to shut down its tomato factory, Dangote Industries Limited yesterday disclosed plans to stop tomato paste production because of the harsh operating environment that gives advantage to imported production.
Group Vice President of Dangote Industries Limited, Alhaji Sani Dangote disclosed that the group recently stopped tomato paste production because of the harsh operating environment that gives advantage to imported products.
He also said the company would not be able to pay farmers from whom they get the raw materials unless government did something urgently.
Although, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said it would not give dollars, Dangote noted that countries like China give their people huge support and waivers that allow them access to finance that they do not really feel the forex crunch being faced by their Nigerian competitors.
Dangote who spoke at the 2nd group meeting of the Zero Hunger Committee in Abuja, expressed dissatisfaction over the delay on the part of the ministries and agencies involved to address the issue of tomato importation. The Chairman of Nigerian AgricBusiness Group (NABG) insisted that the only way out was for government to put in place a clear cut policy on tomato importation and local production, stressing: “We have bee n talking for the past one year and up till now there is no clear cut direction where the government is heading.”
He further said that the forex policy being implemented by the CBN has not stopped importers from making profit from importation instead it is the local industries that are recording losses.
According to him, forex was not the problem but establishing a policy that would restrict the importation of tomato.
“We are not looking for forex. We are only saying that government should put up a policy where we are producing tomato concentrate to those industries that are into packaging; we are not into retail packaging,” he said.
So, that about 30 of those retail companies in Nigeria that are importing would stop and buy from us and repackage into smaller sachets, tins and so on.
“If we are talking about importers and we are talking about local producers; there is no way we can have a common ground because they are looking at 100 per cent import and we are looking at 100 per cent local production.
Dangote, who stated that “some companies have opened industries in Ghana and other free zones under the disguise of ECOWAS and are importing”, was however, optimistic that President Muhammadu Buhari would key into the issue and find a lasting solution.
Recall that Erisco Foods Limited had indicated plans to shut down its tomato paste processing business in Nigeria owing to unfavourable operating climate which will lead to loss of about 1,500 jobs.