President of MAN, Dr. Frank Jacobs

Eromosele Abiodun

Manufacturers have called on the federal government to soft-pedal on its backward integration policy on tomato concentrates and other products to save the nation’s manufacturing sector currently on its knees.

The manufacturers stressed that given the needed support, Nigeria can save N11.7 billion on importation annually and become a leading exporter of Tomato concentrates.

Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, the Managing Director of Sonia Food Industries Mr. Nnamdi Nnodebe, urged the federal government to grant indigenous manufacturers a window of 18 months during which they will backwardly integrate. According to him, during that time the manufacturers should be allowed to access foreign exchange.

Nnodebe spoke to THISDAY during a factory tour by officials of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and Ogun State’s Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Mr. Bimbo Ashiru.

Under the new foreign exchange policy regime, 41 items have been barred from accessing foreign exchange by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Manufacturers, have, however, decried the CBN’s forex restriction policy, insisting that access to foreign exchange was necessary for the purchase of raw materials for processing and production of finished goods.

According to Nnodebe, this development has become a challenge and has left manufacturers groaning under the weight of the current policy, which has made it difficult for them to access raw materials.

“I am very confident, if given this allowance, it will work together for our good and for the economy, because Sonia Foods can complete a tomato factory farm, requisite for processing tomato concentrate, within two years,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, President of MAN, Dr. Frank Jacobs, echoed the words of Nnodebe as he said: “Eighteen months window is what manufacturers of tomatoManufacturers of tomato need to move the sector forward. Backward integration is paramount on the mind of tomato producers, and it would only be ideal to support them, actualise this ambition for the good of our economy, as you well know once this is actualised, jobs would be created and more importantly exports would start to happen because Nigeria has the potential to become leading exporter of concentrates, if given the prerequisite support.

“One way, we could make this happen, is to partner northern states, since tomato cultivation thrives in the north where it finds favourable climate. Governors in the north should endeavour to work together with credible manufacturers like Sonia Foods, to speedily achieve backward integration. Nigeria is the second highest Producer of tomato in Africa and 13th in the world. Still, it spends N11.7 billion a year, on importation of tomato paste.”

In response to the call, the Ogun State Government pledged its firm support especially for manufacturers within the state saying it will give the give the required support to enable them thrive by taking the manufacturers’ case to the federal ministries of finance, industry, trade and investment.

The state government added that it will do its best to help ensure that they are supported and encouraged. He also used the opportunity to inform them that government is also working on the roads and infrastructure to make the state more conducive to investment.

“We have started work on the Shagamu Road and some of the Federal Government roads as well. Most of the roads we are doing in Ogun State are Federal Government roads but there are no Federal Government people.

“Our government is committed to creating the enabling environment through good road network because if they are producing all these goods and we don’t have good road network, the goods are dead on arrival. We are also building bridges in order to reduce the traffic, ”said Ashiru who represented the state government,” he said.