CBN: Detractors Misleading Public on Proposed Milk FX Restriction

CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele
  • Case for investment in local production twisted 
  • Ezekwesili: Planned policy dangerous

Obinna Chima and Peter Uzoho

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday said that since its announcement of plans to restrict access to foreign exchange (FX) for the importation of milk, some interests, who feel hurt by the move aimed at promoting the local production of milk in the country, have been misleading members of the public.

The Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, who disclosed this in a statement, stressed that Nigeria and the welfare of all Nigerians come first in all the apex bank’s policy considerations over the years.

Emefiele, had on Tuesday, confirmed that the bank would restrict FX for importation of milk, pointing out that $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion was spent annually on milk importation.

“We believe that milk is one of those products that can be produced in Nigeria. Milk importation has been going on in Nigeria for over 60 years. If you Google West African Milk or Friesland Campina today, they say that they have been importing milk and that they have been in Nigeria for over 60 years,” he said.

But Emefiele’s pronouncement has elicited criticisms, especially on the social media.

Okorafor in the statement said that the critics were attempting to mislead the general public by misrepresenting the ordinarily unassailable case for investments in local milk production and the medium to long-term benefits of the planned policy. 

“While we are aware that some of our policies may hurt some business interests, we are thankful to Nigerians for the buy-in and intense interest in the policies of the CBN.

“As a people-oriented institution, however, we shall remain focused on the overarching and ultimate welfare of the Nigerian masses. 

“We therefore wish to, once again, reiterate our policy case as it relates to the planned restriction of access to the Nigerian Foreign Exchange market by importers of milk.

“Nigeria and the welfare of all Nigerians come first in all our policy considerations. Being an apolitical organisation, we do not wish to be dragged into politics. Our focus remains ensuring forex savings, job creation and investments in the local production of milk.

“For over 60 years, Nigerian children and indeed adults have been made to be heavily dependent on milk imports. The national food security implications of this can easily be imagined, particularly, when it is technically and commercially possible to breed the cows that produce milk in Nigeria,” the CBN Director explained.

Okorafor further noted that about three years ago, the CBN started a policy to encourage backward integration to conserve foreign exchange and create jobs for our people. 

Included in this policy package, according to him, was the introduction of the highly successful policy, which restricted sale of forex from the Nigerian foreign exchange market for the importation of some 43 items goods that could be produced in Nigeria. 

He noted that arising from the success of the restriction policy, the CBN approached some milk importers, like it did for rice, tomato and starch and asked them to take advantage of CBN’s low-interest loans to begin local milk production instead of relying endlessly on milk imports.

Okorafor clarified: “Today, although there have been some successful attempts at producing milk locally, the vast majority of the importers still treat this national aspiration with imperial contempt.

“For the avoidance of doubt, milk importation is not banned. Indeed, the CBN has no such power. All we will do is to restrict sale of forex for the importation of milk from the Nigerian foreign exchange market.

“We wish to reiterate that we remain ready and able to provide the needed finance to enable investors who genuinely want to engage in milk production.

“The ongoing resort to blackmail and undue politicisation through the use of social media attacks can only serve to strengthen our resolve to wean our country from the clutches of powerful and highly influential traders and dealers, who have kept the masses of our people hostage to foreign consumption and condemned our youths to perpetual unemployment.

“We call on Nigerians to enlist in this vanguard to take our economy back from vested interests, make our country a productive economy and create jobs for our teeming youths.”

Ezekwesili Kicks against Planned Milk FX Restriction

Meanwhile, a former Minister of Education, Mrs Obiageli Ezekwesili, has expressed concern over the plan by the CBN to include milk in the list of items banned from accessing foreign exchange at the official market rate.

 Ezekwesili, in a series of tweets on her official twitter handle yesterday, described the CBN’s plan as policies borne out of vindictiveness.

She said: “Nothing more perverse of political leaders and policy makers as policies borne out of vindictiveness. It appears from what the CBN said on the #MilkBanPolicy that it is a case of: “You folks rejected RUGA, here is your punishment.” What a big shame that would be.

“Often I read or hear Nigerians say we have good policies/laws. Our problem is lack of implementation. How wrong they are! The bane of our failure to achieve sustained economic growth that reduced poverty in other countries is actually bad…..dangerous policies/Laws.

“Milk consumption by Nigerians is 1.7 million, milk production in Nigeria is 600,000 tonnes. When #MilkBanPolicy happens, to avoid scarcity which prices milk up and out of the reach of the poor, Nigeria needs to immediately triple current production of milk.”

“Nigeria has the highest number of children less than 5 years with chronic malnutrition (stunting or low height-for-age) in sub-Saharan Africa at more than 11.7 million, according to the most recent Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), National Population Commission”

“Child Poverty is even worst in a country that holds the ignoble record of being the World’s Capital of Extremely Poor People; our President should be fleeing from policies that escalate poverty. The CBN #MilkBanPolicy is dangerous… dangerous for the poor.”