Umeofia: Nigeria Will Be Self-sufficient in Tomato Production in 18 Months

Nume Ekeghe

The President/Chief Executive Officer of Erisco Foods Limited, Mr. Eric Umeofia, on Wednesday applauded the recent federal government’s policy on Tomato, saying it would increase manufacturing, farming and the entire tomato value chain.

This, he added, would in turn change Nigeria from an importer of this product to a major exporter.
Specifically, Umeofia who has been an advocate of the policy, noted that the increase in tariff on importation of tomato concentrate to 50 per cent and levy of $1,500 per metric tonnes slated for May 7, would encourage the sector to becoming an exporter in the next 18 months.

Umeofia made the remarks at a media briefing in Lagos.
He said: “We are thankful that the federal government has finally come out with a policy on tomato sector this confirms that this government is a listening government. It has confirmed our belief that this government under President Buhari actually cares for the development of Nigeria and its support for anything positive in Nigeria.

“It is not that this ban would give us more money personally, but on a wider scale, it is going to liberate our economy and make our farmers to be richer and a general progress for this country. And in the next 18 months, Nigeria would see the effects of this policy because farmers would be more buoyant, the industry would grow and we would become exporters of tomato paste and concentrate.”

He also faulted a statement in some news media where the president of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) seemed to be supporting the importation of the product.

Umeofia said: “We read a statement attributed to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria president that the policy is fine except that the time given is inadequate. If it is true he said so, then it is unfortunate because it has showed that our own people are being used to destroy our people.

“Why would a body like MAN say that and we wonder why manufacturing would not improve in the country. This means they are not supporting manufacturing and foreigners are using them to protect their own business in Nigeria and continue to manipulate us here.”

He also urged the federal government to replicate this policy in other sectors of the economy so as to improve manufacturing, stressing that the country’s growth was dependent on the growth of the manufacturing sector.
He added: “No country has ever and would ever be sufficient without manufacturing. We should manufacture what we have here to our advantage and then export them to balance our trade books.”

Furthermore, he urged the financial institutions and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to encourage the sector with access to foreign exchange as well as review interest rate.

He said: “What is left is how the financial institutions can support this sector by singling tomato out so we can start exporting in 18 months and it is possible. We have two good seasons in Nigeria and in countries like China where we are importing from, they have one good season.

“Without support from financial institutions it is difficult. For example, we spend almost $200,000 on spare parts every month and we have not received money from the Central Bank of Nigeria in 10 months now. They should realise that manufacturing is the only way out. The only way to make manufacturing attractive is to make it profitable and I would like to advocate a lower interest rate for manufacturing, nine per cent is still too high.”

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