•Emefiele wants all uniformed services, medics to source local cotton and textile
James Emejo in Abuja
After the rice boom that has seen many homes ditching expensive imported rice for home grown local rice consequently saving the country huge foreign exchange, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s quest to diversify the economy received added boost as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently commenced efforts to revive commercial production of tomato and textile in the country, in a remarkable lift to the economy.
CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, announced this while explaining a multifaceted commodity approach adopted by the bank in its landmark agricultural intervention programmes. He said the scheme, particularly in the areas of tomato and cotton farming, had yielded positive outcomes for the growth of the economy. That is in addition to unprecedented revolution in local rice production, he stated.
Some of the hitherto moribund cotton and textile factories, particularly, in the northern part of the country, have reportedly been brought back to life, with activities picking up daily at the cotton ginneries.
Tomato is among the 10 items, which Emefiele wants to boost under a five-year policy thrust (2019-2024) meant to enhance productivity through the provision of improved seedlings as well as access to finance, especially for rural farmers.
The CBN had in June 2015 excluded importers of 41 goods and services from accessing foreign exchange at the Nigerian foreign exchange markets in order to encourage local production of the items. The list was later increased to 44 with the addition of textile, tomato, and palm oil.
The move was aimed at sustaining foreign exchange market stability and ensuring the efficient utilisation of foreign exchange as well as ensuring that optimum benefit is derived from goods and services imported into the country.
Emefiele believes the bank’s on-going interventions, especially in agriculture, will “help to boost not only our domestic outputs but also improve our annual non-oil exports receipts from $2 billion in 2018 to $12 billion by 2023.”
The CBN governor had in August last year disclosed the decision to place a blanket ban on the importation of tomato products into the country by 2021. He expressed optimism that the country will soon achieve self-sufficiency in tomato production, with even enough to export and earn foreign exchange.
Speaking recently at the ground-breaking ceremony of Tomato Jos Farming and Processing Limited in Kaduna, Emefiele noted that the strategy adopted by the apex bank was largely hinged on the twin approaches of out-grower contractual arrangement in the short to medium term, and backward integration in the medium to long term.
According to him, the commodity champion model introduced in the first quarter of 2019, to stimulate production of tomato and strengthen the end-to-end linkages in the value chain from input supplies to the final consumer, had begun to yield results with the mobilisation and validation of about 140,848 farmers from various tomato farmers associations across 25 states of the federation.
Noting that tomato represented an important commodity, being one of the main ingredients in hundreds of Nigerian and international dishes as well as the beverage and pharmaceutical industries, he said its annual production in the country was estimated at 1.701 million tonnes while annual consumption stood at 2.93 million tonnes. This leaves an annual supply shortfall of over 1.2 million tonnes valued at $2.5 billion annually, which is met through importation and smuggling.
The CBN governor said the Tomato Jos plant, which is owned by a US investor, Mira Mehta, was “one of the key projects we are supporting in the tomato value chain and the reality of today’s event is an attestation to the objectives of the administration of Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai, the people-oriented Governor of Kaduna State, whose dedication to the industrialisation of the state led to the creation of an environment that enabled Tomato Jos to be a reality.”
Emefiele commended Buhari for his continued support of the apex bank’s efforts towards economic diversification and job creation through focused intervention in critical areas. He said CBN’s intervention in local tomato production and processing had become more critical given that tomato was among the commodities that played an important role in the demand for foreign exchange.
Mehta described Tomato Jos as a leading agricultural company operating a world-class commercial farm, adding that it has helped smallholder farmers transform from subsistence to commercial growers who specialise in growing maize, soya beans, and tomatoes.
According to her, the company has the capacity to process 85 tons of tomato per month, churning out high quality tomato paste, and creating employment for thousands of youths.
Meanwhile, in yet another success story for the CBN, last year it inaugurated a separate tomato processing plant, Gino Tomato, in Kaduna. The company rented about 100 hectares, with about 30 hectares mapped out as farm area, 16 hectares of which had been cultivated.
The various interventions support CBN’s vision of the country becoming self-sufficient in tomato production, ultimately boosting the current administration’s diversification programme through agriculture.
As part of the textile revival drive, Emefiele had last year expressed his desire to have the service chiefs and chief executives of uniformed services support on-going initiatives by the apex bank at reviving the Cotton, Textile and Garment (CTG) industry, through their patronage of locally manufactured cloths. He disclosed that the CBN had gotten the mandate of the President to ensure that all uniformed services and medical facilities sourced their fabrics locally from the Nigerian CTG sector.
He added that through the enforcement of Executive Order 003 in support of local content in procurement by Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs), Buhari had directed full compliance with this Order as it will help in addressing the pressure on foreign reserves through demands for forex for the importation of textile and clothing materials.
In October 2019, the CBN’s journey towards resuscitation of the country’s ailing CTG industry reached a climax with the signing of two critical Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) involving critical stakeholders in the entire value chain. The first of MoU, between the National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN) and ginning companies, sought to guarantee steady off-take and processing of cotton lint and cotton seeds, while the agreement between the Nigerian Textile Manufacturers Association and the armed forces, police, paramilitary Institutions and the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was to facilitate long-term contracts (five years or more) with textile and garment companies to manufacture uniforms in the country for use by various arms of Nigeria’s uniformed services.
Today, there is strong evidence that some of the hitherto moribund cotton and textile factories are back to life and creating employment for Nigerians. A number of companies have been resuscitated, including Nasara Agro Ginnery, located along Biu road, Gombe State, where there had been significant activities in processing of cottonseeds. Activities have also peaked at Arewa Cotton Limited, where the ginning process is currently in high gear.