The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu has said that the country needs to encourage local production in order to promote economic diversification.
Onu, who disclosed this in Lagos during a courtesy visit to the tomato paste processing plant of Erisco Foods Limited monday, stated that no nation can become great without attaining self-sufficiency in food production.
He explained that the country cannot continue to rely on oil and gas as its only economic mainstay, adding that a resilient economy is needed to withstand the shock arising from the falling crude oil prices.
The minister stressed that the current administration was highly focused on attaining self-sufficiency in food production, noting that local production would help in the attainment of this goal.
“Presently, Nigeria is the only country that produces tomato twice a year. If local production is fully supported, the country will be in a position to produce tomato for local consumption and export. Relying on crude oil and natural gas has not helped the nation in the past. Whenever there is a fall in commodity pricing the shock is too much for us to bear. If we diversify the economy, other sub-sectors will help us stabilise and make it resilient.
“What we are witnessing today is very significant, because it will make our economy strong and resilient in terms of food security. The administration will support the management of Erisco food limited in its drive. We commend your efforts at creating jobs, tackling poverty and growing the economy.
“The cabinet of the President Muhammadu Buhari is highly focused and united to assist the president tackle the challenges facing the nation. Before, we came into office the signs were there that the economy was in decline, therefore it will take time to reposition. In the development of any nation, science and technology plays a vital role, Nigeria has not totally embraced science and technology. I will ensure that we embrace it for development. We are also towards commercialising our research findings,” he said.
In his address, the Chief Executive Officer, of Erisco Food Limited, Chief Eric Umeofia, stated that the tomatoes processing plant has a capacity of producing over 450,000 metric tonnes per annum in addition to producing other products, noting that the company has created employment opportunities for 2,052 workers as part of its commitment to help address unemployment challenges in the country.
He said his firm has been purchasing forex from the black market to buy machinery and essential raw materials for its expansion.
He added: “The total CBN allocation of forex to us is only four per cent and the total loan from Nigeria is about seven per cent of the value of our investment, while we borrow about 12 per cent from overseas, to run our factory, due to the trust they have in us. It is important to state here that Nigeria is the biggest importers of tomato paste in the world, while 75 per cent of fresh tomatoes harvested are wasted because there are no means of converting it for industrial use.”