No money for food importers-Buhari to CBN
Post created on 3:30 pm
Going by President Muhmmadu Buhari’s directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), importers food items and fertiliser would not enjoy patronage from the apex bank. CBN Governor Godwin Emiefile on Thursday got the Presidential order to withhold funding from for food and fertiliser importation during yesterday’s meeting of the National Food Security Council (NFSC), held in the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja. The order given was issued verbally by the President and would soon be documented, a statement by Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity Mallam Garba Shehu.
According to the President, Buhari restated his earlier verbal directive to the apex bank, saying he would pass it down in writing that “nobody importing food should be given money.” The Federal Government had rolled out the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), the core of which is self-sustainability and massive job creation through agriculture.
Emphasizing the need to boost local agriculture, the President said: “From only three operating in the country, we have 33 fertiliser blending plants now working. We will not pay a kobo of our foreign reserves to import fertiliser. We will empower local producers.” The President also directed that blenders of fertiliser should convey products directly to state governments so as to skip the cartel of transporters undermining the efforts to successfully deliver the products to users at reasonable costs.
He advised private businesses bent on food importation to source their foreign exchange independently, saying “use your money to compete with our farmers instead of using foreign reserves to bring in compromised food items to divest the efforts of our farmers.
But the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, in its reaction, warned that the directive could cause further inflation, saying the country was not sufficient in food production. The acting Director-General of MAN, Mr Ambrose Oruche, in an interview, said the country was not self-sufficient in food production and still needed forex to import some food. Oruche said with the country not self-sufficient in food production there would be more inflation if was no forex to import food items such as sugar and flour.
He said, “You will see that the last inflation report that was released showed food inflation rate has gone up which shows there is no food sufficiency because what normally happens is if demand is more than the supply, the price of the product will go up.”
“I don’t know whether we are sufficient in other products of foods like products like milk, I don’t know the statistics they are using, but we are not sufficient in food production.
“We still need wheat to produce flour, the cost of flour has gone up because we could not get forex to buy flour and the cost of sugar has gone up.
“We still need forex to import food and raw materials that will enable us to produce the finished goods that people can consume.”
Reacting to the presidential directive, the Director-General of the LCCI, Muda Yusuf, told one of our correspondents that the order was not new, but noted that the President should be more specific. He said, “The word ‘Food’ is generic. There are processed food items. There are agricultural products that are intermediate products used by manufacturers as critical raw materials. There is a need to properly define what food means in the context of the directive in order to avoid discretionary interpretation.”
On his part, the Lagos Chapter Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Otunba Femi Oke, supported the development but called for more financial help to farmers. He said, “It is a very good development for the CBN not to release money to those importing food. This is because it will encourage us the local farmers to produce more to meet the demands at home.”