Stakeholders seek clarifications on ban of FOREX for food importation

CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele
Manufacturing and trading stakeholders have called for better briefing by President Muhammadu Buhari to clarify the specific classes of food that should be denied official Foreign Exchange for the purpose of imports.

This came on the hills of the president’s directive on Tuesday to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to immediately stop the allocation of foreign exchange for food importation.

Speaking to newsmen in Lagos on Wednesday, the Director General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr. Segun Ajayi-Kadiri, said the government should specify the classes of food that are concerned in the ban since some food items are raw materials for manufacturing other finished products in Nigeria.

Ajayi-Kadiri, while appreciating the government for efforts aimed at protecting local manufacturing and the local economy, however called for cautious approach in order not to hamper the bedrock of the economy, which is manufacturing that requires raw materials to remain in business.

In a similar vein, Mr. Muda Yusuf, the Director General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) said it was important and needful for the president to be clear on the items to be so affected, by listing them.

He frowned on a situation where the president interferes with the statutory responsibility of the CBN, and in this case,  a monetary issue which should be left to the apex bank to handle.

He cautioned the federal government against making very hasty policy pronouncements that could scare away investors.

The President had during the week directed the CBN to immediately stop the official allocation of  foreign exchange to importers of food items into the country.
Buhari said this was because Nigeria has attained food security and does not need such imports.
In a statement by the presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, the President explained that foreign reserves would be saved and utilised mainly for diversification of the economy.

Buhari spoke when he received some governors who celebrated the Eid-el-Kabir with him in his home town, Daura, Katsina state.
Buhari was quoted saying, “Don’t give a cent to anybody to import food into the country’.’
The President identified Kebbi, Ogun, Lagos, Jigawa, Ebonyi and Kano as having huge returns in rice farming, adding that they took advantage of the federal government policy on agriculture.
He called on other states to embrace the policy of agriculture revolution in the country.
He said, “We have achieved food security, and for physical security we are not doing badly.”
He expressed delight that some young graduates were beginning to go into agricbusiness and food entrepreneurship.
He disclosed that incoming ministers will be directed to meet the target of the administration for the people.

It would be recalled that the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, had in December 2018 disclosed that the country’s monthly food import bill fell from $665.4 m in January 2015 to $160.4m as of October 2018.

He said this led to savings of about $21 billion on food imports for the period.
According to him, foods imports were recorded rice, fish, milk, sugar and wheat.
He had also said there has been 97.3 per cent cumulative reduction in monthly rice import bills, 99.6 per cent in fish, 81.3 per cent in milk, 63.7 per cent in sugar, and 60.5 per cent in wheat.”
With additional information from ShippingDay.