External reserves fall by $4bn in one year – Punch

By Oyetunji Abioye

Despite the staggering crash in the value of the naira against the United States dollar and other major foreign currencies in 2016, the Central Bank of Nigeria spent $4bn from the nation’s external reserves to defend the local currency in 12 months, statistics obtained from the CBN website on Tuesday showed. 

The data also revealed that the external reserves would likely be closing the year on the $25bn mark.

The external reserves stood at $25.361bn on December 22, 2016, the latest data from the CBN showed.

On December 22, 2015, the reserves stood $29.341bn. This means that the external reserves have fallen by $4bn in 12 months. It also means that the CBN has depleted reserves by 14 per cent of its value as at the end of last year to defend the naira.

On December 31, 2015, the last day of the year, the external reserves recorded $29.069bn.

The controversial defence of the naira by the CBN has come under severe criticism by economists, who believe that the forces of demand and supply should be allowed to determine the exchange rate of the naira, at least to a considerable level.

The foreign exchange reserves rose to about four-month high of $25.361bn on December 22, the CBN latest data showed.

In less than one week, the reserves rose by almost $300m from $25.084bn recorded on December 16, 2016 to $25.361 on December 22, 2016.

However, currency and economic experts are not sure if the marginal increases in the external reserves’ level are sustainable amid a falling naira and acute shortage of dollar in the foreign exchange markets and the economy.

“We are not sure the extent this can go. Currently, the FX market is not a free-float one where the interplay of demand and supply determines price and volume. The uptick is not as a result of supply over demand. It happens when there is a slowdown in the allocation of the FX,” the Chief Executive Officer, Cowry Asset Management Limited, Mr. Johnson Chukwu, said.

A senior associate in investment banking at Afrinvest, a research and investment firm, Mr. Ayodeji Ebo, said the gradual increase might only be sustainable if the oil price maintained its current level and there was a continuous ramp up in oil production.

The nation’s fast-depleting reserves recorded $23.89bn low on October 19, 2016.

As a result, the reserves dropped by 15.9 per cent from last year when they closed at the $29bn mark.

At the end of November, 2016, the reserves stood at $24.77bn, up from $23.95bn on October 31.

The foreign exchange reserves declined to $24.92bn on September 14 from $25.11bn on September 9.

The reserves had fallen from $26bn on August 4, 2016 to $25.97bn on August 5 as the central bank stepped up dollar sales to boost liquidity at the interbank market and support the ailing naira.

The naira, which touched an all-time low of 365.25 per dollar on August 18 at the official market, has consistently closed around 305.5 in recent weeks.

The CBN had on June 20 lifted its 16-month-old naira peg, following overwhelming dollar demand from companies and calls for a free floating of the naira by industry experts.

Experts argued that the central bank had yet to fully allow the naira to float freely.

The CBN has struggled to support the naira as the country’s external reserves continue to fall.

Dollar shortages have caused many companies to halt operations and lay off workers, compounding an economic crisis exacerbated by the fall in global prices of oil, which accounts for over 70 per cent of Nigeria’s budget revenue.

Experts expect the naira to depreciate further and hit the 500 mark to the United States dollar at the parallel market next week as the greenback scarcity persists and the CBN cuts supply to foreign exchange operators.

The local currency closed at 485 per dollar at the parallel market on Friday, up from 495 the previous day.

Meanwhile, the Bureau De Change operators are now getting $8,000 each per week against the usual $15,000 each per week.

The severe shortage of the dollar has put the naira under persistent pressure at both the official and parallel forex markets.

Economic and financial experts said unless the lingering dollar supply problem was abated, the volatility in the exchange rate and the consequent economic challenges might continue.

Dollar Rises as U.S. Trading Resumes, Treasury Yields Support – Bloomberg

 

  • Trading volumes muted; some ranges get stretched slightly
  • Consumer confidence robust, while manufacturing gains

The dollar built slight gains as foreign exchange trading in Europe and North America resumed after the Christmas break, and as U.S. yields rose before the Treasury sold $26b of two-year notes at 1.280%, the highest yield since 2008.

The dollar’s gains amid muted flows and mostly tight trading ranges were paced by advances against the Japanese yen and the Canadian dollar, while the greenback lost ground versus the euro; emerging market currencies were mixed.

  • U.S. economic data was upbeat, though the data itself was not a noticeable driver of price action; the December Conference Board consumer confidence index rose to 113.7 vs est. 109.0, while the Richmond Fed manufacturing index climbed to 8 vs expectations for a more modest gain to 5
  • USD/CAD rose to a fresh high at 1.3568; FX flows were muted and CAD gained no support from a more than 1% rise in WTI; CAD remains defensive after the October GDP report showed that the economy unexpectedly contracted
  • There’s little in the way of significant Canada data out this week that may shift sentiment, though USD/CAD may find technical resistance at the November high 1.3589
  • USD/JPY is trading near a fresh high at 117.62; the dollar rose as UST yields gained in the session and U.S. stocks advanced
  • EUR/USD is trading at 1.0452 vs a marginal fresh high at 1.0463; EUR gaining slight lift from EUR/GBP, as sterling stayed on a defensive footing before U.K. markets reopen tomorrow
  • EUR is holding below the Monday high at 1.0468 while trading above tech support from the Dec. 23 low at 1.0427

 

Jump in reserves, oil price seen to close Nigeria’s multiple FX rates – Businessday

The surprise jump in Nigeria’s foreign reserve to $25.36bn and improving oil prices could help bring an end to the country’s multiple exchange rates which have been the subject of criticism by analysts and investors.

The reserves rose by $300m in about a week, according to data on the website of the apex bank.

Nigeria currently has almost ten Naira – Dollar exchange rates for transactions in its economy, a signal of the dysfunctional Foreign Exchange (FX) market.

BusinessDay has identified up to nine different exchange rates applied at one time or the other in the past year and they include a pilgrims rate of N197/$, 2017 Budget rate N305/$, interbank rate N315/$, fuel imports rate N316/$, International card rate N319/$, Travelex N345/$, Western Union rate N375/$, Bureau Du Change at N399/$ and Parallel Market rate near N488/$.

Analysts say the multiple exchange rate mechanism is causing a lot of damage and uncertainty to the economy, as well as encouraging round-tripping and rent seeking.

“It’s indeed a mess. The way out is obvious – government’s control and arbitrary determination of FX rate should be eliminated, so we can have a transparent market-determined rate that will encourage foreign investors to put money in Nigeria,” Tosin Ojo, Head of research at investment firm, Cardinal Stone Partners Limited said.

“One step in the right direction has been proposed in the ten-point economic agenda released two weeks ago – which is to remove the currency control on the 41 ban list and make use of fiscal control measures. This should be implemented speedily. In addition, we need to scrap concessional rates to different sectors – while this may lead to some inflationary pressure, the damage of fragmenting the country’s exchange rate is doing far greater harm,” Ojo said.

Africa’s biggest economy is facing its first recession in 25 years.

The economic crisis has kept the naira under pressure against the dollar, and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has struggled to support the local currency as foreign investors bail on the unorthodox policies being pursued by the Nigerian Government.

The CBN’s gross dollar reserves which are down 15 percent in the past year, stood at $25.04 billion as at Dec 15, 2016 and are now up to a four month high of $25.36bn.

It is unclear if the recent reserve accretion will be sustained but analysts believe that the rise in international oil prices and the healthy jump in production volumes offer Nigeria a chance to close the multiple exchange windows and bring some flexibility to the market.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that net inflows into reserves from foreign exchange swaps were in the region of $4.8 billion in 2014 and 2015, meaning the CBN net reserve position is much lower than the gross levels.

Investors have been advocating more reforms in Nigeria.

“No investor we spoke to will put money into Nigeria, unless it copies the currency reform story that Egypt and Russia have both done,” Charles Robertson, global Chief Economist at Investment firm, Renaissance Capital, said in a recent note to investors.

“Among 13 sub Saharan Africa (SSA) credits, we saw six suffer sovereign rating downgrades in 2016, we expect just Angola to be downgraded in 2017 and Nigeria too, if it does not move on the FX.”

The splintering of the FX market and collapse in liquidity at the interbank market have led to market failure and a build up of backlogs of FX demand.

Nigeria’s Central Bank on Monday asked banks to submit bids for a “special currency auction” to clear the backlog of matured outstanding dollar obligations for selected sectors of the economy.

The CBN instructed commercial lenders to submit backlog dollar demand from fuel importers, airlines, raw materials and machinery for manufacturing firms and agricultural chemicals.

Analysts however say adhoc interventions in the FX markets will not boost confidence and improve dollar liquidity.

For many years, Nigeria had just two rates, the interbank FX rate and the black-market rate which closely tracked it. The black market rate started to diverge from the interbank rate in mid 2015 as the collapse in the price of oil that makes up 95 percent of Nigeria’s exports accelerated.

More rates/FX segments were then created once the new President, Muhammadu Buhari took over and signaled his intention to control the exchange rate, rather than let market forces send it lower.

The different rates highlight or call to question if the country is truly operating a flexible FX regime or a managed float, according to Abiodun Keripe, Head of Research and Strategy at Elixir Investment Partners Limited.

“While the need to have different rates for some sectors or markets is understandable or can be pardoned from an economic or social point of view, others are more contentious. For instance, having a different rate for pilgrimage. Getting out of this mess would mean having a fully flexible currency market, where prices are determined by demand and supply forces. Another way out would be to boost non-crude export earnings and remittances from the Diaspora.”

PATRICK ATUANYA

No Happy New Year in China as Currency, Liquidity Fears Loom – Bloomberg

  • Currency conversion quota resets Jan. 1, stoking outflow fears
  • Cash demand seen rising before Lunar New Year at end-January

China bulls could be facing a grim New Year’s eve.

The first day of 2017 is when an annual $50,000 quota to convert the yuan into foreign exchange resets, stoking concern there will be a rush to sell the local currency. With tax payments and a regulatory assessment also tightening liquidity in the money market toward year-end, January may bring scant relief as lenders prepare for stronger cash demand before Lunar New Year holidays, which are only a month away.

China’s markets are seeing renewed pressure this month as the Federal Reserve projects a faster pace of rate increases for 2017 and its Chinese counterpart tightens monetary conditions to spur deleveraging and defend the exchange rate. The declines are capping off a tough year for investors during which bonds, shares and currency all slumped.

“You have Chinese New Year quite early, and because of that one-month window, most of the banks will try to lock the money in a three-month cycle,” said Arthur Lau, Hong Kong-based head of Asia ex-Japan fixed income at PineBridge Investments. “The current situation in the bond market is partly because of year-end and because of Chinese New Year.”

The week-long Lunar New Year holidays are traditionally a time when people give out cash gifts and companies pay employee bonuses.

China’s 10-year government bond yield has surged 21 basis points in December, poised for its biggest monthly increase since August 2013, and its first annual gain since that same year, Chinabond data show. The yuan’s 6.6 percent decline in 2016 puts it on course for its worst year since 1994, while the Shanghai Composite Index is headed for its largest drop in five years.

The three-month interbank rate known as Shibor rose for a 50th day, its longest streak since 2010, to an 18-month high on Wednesday. The overnight repurchase rate on the Shanghai Stock Exchange jumped to as high as 33 percent the day before, the highest since Sept. 29. As banks become more reluctant to offer cash to other types of institutions, the latter have to turn to the exchange for money, said Xu Hanfei, an analyst at Guotai Junan Securities Co. in Shanghai.

Bond and money markets may stabilize after Lunar New Year holidays — which start Jan. 27 and end Feb. 2 — though they’re unlikely to return to levels before the latest rout owing to yuan weakness and tighter monetary policy, said Lau. The People Bank of China’s yuan position — a gauge of capital flows — dropped the most in 10 months in November amid expectations for faster U.S. rate increases. 

The onshore yuan’s surging trading volume suggests outflowsare quickening, according to Harrison Hu, chief greater China economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc. The daily average value of transactions in Shanghai climbed to $34 billion in December as of Wednesday, the highest since at least April 2014, according to data from China Foreign Exchange Trade System. The offshore exchange rate dropped 0.15 percent on Wednesday to trade near a record low, while the onshore rate was little changed.“In the new year, the new foreign-exchange purchase quota starts, so we expect yuan positions in January to drop significantly,” Liu Dongliang, an analyst at China Merchants Bank Co., wrote in a note this month. “Within the foreseeable future, the market will be pessimistic about funding conditions. It happens to be near year-end now, where money markets are tight, and after New Year’s Day it’s almost Chinese New Year.”

CBN, BDCs, Travelex in talk for another trading day – Businessday

By HOPE MOSES-ASHIKE

Bureau De Change (BDC) operators are in discussion with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Travelex, a global currency dealer, for another trading day before the New Year.
Most market activities had closed for the two days holiday to mark the Christmas celebration and may still close for the New Year celebration.
The BDCs had the last trading last week where a number of operators got $8,000 allocation from Travelex, instead of $15,000 they used to purchase. The reduction was as a result of persistent dollar shortage.
Aminu Gwadabe, acting president, Association of Bureau De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON), said this would further stem the spikes in the foreign exchange market. “I therefore urge our members to be on the alert,” he told BusinessDay in a chart.
Naira further strengthened against the U.S. dollar on Tuesday by N7.00k, closing at a record high of N478/$, about 1.44 percent gain compared to N485/$ traded the previous day at the BDC segment of the market.
The local currency remained stable at the inter-bank spot market, closing at N305.25 per dollar, according to the data from the FMDQ.
Naira had on Monday firmed against the dollar by N10.00 as it closed to a record high of N485/$ at the parallel market.
Gwadabe said was as a result of rushing hour for festive imports and the expectation of increase in dollar liquidity by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in the coming year.
 
Last week, Nigerian Naira appreciated against the greenback at the interbank foreign exchange market by 0.04 percent to N315/$.
However, the naira depreciated at both the Bureau De Change and parallel market segments by 1.67 percent and 2.06 percent to N488/$ and N495/$, respectively, amid persistent scarcity of the greenback.
According to analysts at Cowry Asset Management Limited, the announcement by CBN spokesman revealing plans to ensure that the black market is totally eliminated may have led to the further scrambling for dollars during last week and the apparent depreciation of the Nigerian Naira against the US dollars.
Meanwhile, the weekly movements in most dated forward contracts at the interbank OTC segment implied marginal stability of the Naira relative to the US greenback amid an increase in the foreign exchange reserves – external reserves increased week-on-week by 0.84 percent to $25.25 billion as of Thursday, 22 December 2016.
The 1-month, 3-month, 6-month and 12-month forward contracts were stable at N320.18/$, N330.537/$, N346.07/$ and N378/$, respectively. However, the spot rate depreciated week-on-week by 0.08 percent to N305.25/$ despite $7.5 million intervention sales by CBN to banks during the week.
This week, the analysts expect some level of stability of the naira as the markets observe the Christmas and New Year public holidays.

Nigerian ports ready for excess volume from ban on vehicle importation through border, says NPA boss – Businessday

Hadiza Bala Usman, managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in a recent interactive session with select journalists to mark her 100 days in office, said that the Roll-on, Roll-off terminals in the nation’s seaports have the capacity, and have also positioned to handle the addition volume from the ban on importation of vehicles through land borders. She spoke on other things the authority is doing to move the port to the next level.  UZOAMAKA ANAGOR-EWUZIE was there.   

Port capacity to handle more volume

Our seaports are ready to take the additional traffic the new policy on vehicle importation might bring. With the ban on importation of cars through land borders, we are likely going to see increase in activities at the port and we are putting mechanism in place to handle the traffic and offer seamless operations. We always had that capacity, which is currently under-utilised. And now that we hope to have increased activities, we will up what we have on ground.

Development of deep seaports

NPA’s 20 percent stake in the development of Lekki deep seaport is ‘too high,’ and we currently working to pay lower shareholding than the 20 percent that was envisaged at the beginning of the project. NPA, on behalf of the Federal Government has paid 4.4 percent of its shareholding but the concern we have, is if we have the priority to invest a tune of over $100 million in port development.

The NPA’s shareholding is a comfort shareholding that enables the investor to feel the presence of government for the sustainability of the project. The 20 percent might be too high considering the current state of Nigeria financially, and the fact that the country has other areas that required priority spending of resources.

We are discussing with the Federal Ministry of Transport to scale down our shareholding below the 20 percent that is currently provided in the structure as approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC). We believe strongly that this will not affect any financial model that the promoter of the Lekki port is working on.

ISPS Code implementation

The United State Coast Guard has scheduled to carry out an assessment of the Nigerian seaports and facilities in February 2017.  They are also expected to grade Nigeria’s seaport terminals and facilities. The NPA is on top of the situation to ensure 100 percent compliance and we have communicated to terminal operators, who are very much compliant to the provisions of the Code. NPA is very much aware of its obligations as regards the ISPS Code and we have been leading in compliance to the provisions of the Code.

Debt recovering plans

The authority will aggressively pursue all the funds trapped in banks to ensure that such funds are remitted into the federation accounts. We will ensure that all the debt owed NPA by terminal operators and other lessors, is recovered and remitted into the Single Treasury Accounts (TSA) in a shortest possible time.

Heritage bank and Aso Homes are still having some certain amount of NPA monies in their possession without being remitted into the Federation Account.  We still have our N400 million in Aso Homes in the same manner that we still have indebtedness in Heritage bank. Heritage bank has paid some certain amount of money but we still have about $19 million that belongs to NPA, which has not been returned to the TSA.

NPA has a huge debt profile that runs into N10 billion and another $585 million debt that we considered as bad debt. All we need is to go through the legal process of considering them as bad debt before taking them out of our books.   

NPA is working on removing the debt that was accrued by a lessor that was unable to have access to a piece of land contained in the lease agreement due to an encroachment. This is because the fundamental to lease is that the lessor has to have access to the property and we believe that it would be very irresponsible to force a particular entity to pay for a lease that was encumbered by encroachment; topography or others.

We will develop a framework for debt recovering because we have loss quite a significant sum. We also have indebtedness where entities owe NPA but at a point such entity will pack up and will not be found within the address given to NPA.

Port access roads

NPA has concluded talks with Dangote and Floor Mills of Nigeria on bringing permanent solution to the issue of bad state of Apapa/Wharf road. The final drawing of the Apapa/Wharf road will be submitted to the Federal Ministry of Works in few weeks. We have identified the need for building drainage on the road. We are also considering using the same framework that was used in the building of the Obajena road but, the Federal Ministry of Works will communicate the details of the construction with the public when they are done.

NPA has finally gotten the rehabilitation of Creek road and two other roads in Apapa into 2017 budget of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. The minister has confirmed that the budget will address the listed roads and construction would be carried out next year.

We have identified the need to have functional holding bays and trailer garages. The minister of Power, Works and Housing has also confirmed that the completion of the trailer park being built at the Second Gate area of the Tin-Can Island Port would be contained in 2017 budget. In addition, we are working to ensure the reduction in the number of trailers that are running on Apapa roads, because we have understood that some of these trailers are not on their way to anywhere.

Some of the things that we are putting in place are to create a model where trailers would be allowed in Apapa if certified that such trailer is actually going to pick up cargo. There is also this World Bank initiative that was brought to NPA to put up an electronic monitoring system for trucks coming to Apapa.  This is indeed going to be a whole private sector driven initiative.

Minister warns of fake dollars in circulation – Businessday

… says Nigerians are being arrested

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, has warned that there are fake US dollar notes in circulation in Nigeria, driven by growing demand for the currency.
Ogbeh said in an exclusive interview with BusinessDay in Abuja, that some criminals were taking advantage of the scarcity of the foreign currency to circulate counterfeit notes to unsuspecting people.
Fallen oil earnings in the country have seen a scarcity of dollars in the country, even though demand is not abating.
As of last Monday (Decenber 26), the naira traded at a record high of N485/$ at the Bureau De Change (BDC) window and about N305 at the interbank market.
This is despite various interventions by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to ameliorate the dollar scarcity, especially for manufacturers and other strategic actors in the nation’s economy.
Recall that the CBN in mid-November, gave access to about 7,792 requests for foreign exchange, valued at over $867 million to manufacturers and other strategic actors in the Nigerian economy, to ease forex scarcity.
The CBN in a statement issued then, stated that the access was in continuation of its resolve to ease foreign exchange pressure on manufacturers, adding that it was given through the interbank window to enable manufacturers and strategic actors to source for vital raw materials and spare parts for their respective industries.
With the price of food and other consumables soaring, and manufacturers closing shop, the activities of the dollar counterfeiters are worrisome, as the minister said.
He called for caution on the part of the public, especially manufacturers and urged Bureau De Change operators to watch what they were selling.
“Right now, there is something you people should warn the public about. There are lots of fake dollars being sold now. Nigerians who travel with them are getting arrested. Put that news out. People are scanning these dollar notes so cleverly, you go abroad, they arrest you with it,” he said.

    West Africa now has its own blockchain-enabled digital currency – Businessday

    Senegal will soon begin using a digital currency, ushering in the use of blockchain technology by the central bank. It is another opportunity for financial technology (fintech) to help emerging markets leapfrog traditional banking systems and bring financial inclusion to more people, Quartz Africa reports.
     
    If the Senegal rollout is successful, the currency will be used in most of Francophone West Africa Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Togo and Lusophone Guinea Bissau. Known as the eCFA, it is designed to operate alongside the CFA, the West African Franc.
    The eCFA will be issued by the regional bank Banque Régionale de Marché and will be used by countries in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (link in French), according to a statement.
     
    The eCFA has been designed to work with existing mobile money platforms like MPesa, which have themselves been revolutionary for the millions of unbanked Africans. The e-currency will be produced with technology created by eCurrency Mint Limited, a company that enables central banks to create their own digital fiat currency, designed to be circulated alongside paper money as legal tender.
     
    Just like paper money has a watermark, serial number and governor’s signature, these security features can be translated to a digital currency, explained Jonathan Dharmapalan, founder and CEO eCurrency Mint. “By layering these together and binding them into a single instrument you have essentially created a central bank-issued digital currency,” Dharmapalan told a room at the Alliance for Financial Inclusion Global Policy Forum in the Mozambican capital Maputo in 2015.
    The physical technology behind the currency is a digital currency production engine. In Dharmapalan’s presentation, the engine was a pyramidal structure with a tiny slot at the top. Each central bank will have their own engine, locked in a vault and kept offline. It will only be operational when the central bank wants to use it, he explained.
    The advantages represented by the new technology have been tempered by a lack of clarity on how exactly the system will work. Skeptics say it’s unclear what kind of distributed ledger—the foundation of blockchain technology—the new currency will use, which could introduce a host of unforeseen regulatory and distribution issues for the West African regional bank.
    Tunisia became the first African nation to use blockchain technology to digitize its currency, launching the eDinar earlier this year. Last year, Ecuador launched the first state-sponsored e-currency in the world.
    Central banks around the world have kept an eye on the disruptive technology of cryptocurrencies. On the one hand, they’re excited about the distributed ledger innovation that allows the secure transfer of information, without a third party, according to a 2015 report released by the Bank for International Settlements (PDF), of which more than 60 central banks are members.
    Digital currencies, however, are also difficult to regulate, and until now had no links to sovereign currencies. A digital currency issued by central banks allows national treasuries to make use of all the technological advantages of cryptocurrencies, without relinquishing control to decentralized organizations like Bitcoin.
    With banks taking charge of issuing e-currency, they maintain their role as sole issue of national currency, disrupting the disruptor before independent blockchain currencies even gained a foothold in Africa.

    Cashew farmers’ revenue increases by 20% in 2016 – Businessday

     

    … early cropping seen in 2017

     
    Nigeria cashew farmers recorded huge sales and made profits from sale of cashew nuts in 2016, owing to steep devaluation of the naira, stakeholders say.

    The stakeholders, who spoke at the Annual Cashew Logistics meeting held in Lagos recently, said cashew farmers and exporters made more money in 2016 which has significantly increase the revenue of Nigeria’s cashew industry by 20 percent.
     
    “In 2016 the industry made revenue of $300 million dollars and last year we did $250 million,” Tola Faseru, president, National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN) told journalist during the annual meeting.
     
    “We produce about 170,000 metric tons this year and with what we have seen so far 2017 is going to be better,” Faseru said.

    This year, Vietnam, world largest cashew exporter, experienced it worst drought in a century which reduced the country’s export by 11 percent and created market for cashew nuts from other countries.
     
    As a result, the demand for Nigeria’s cashew by foreigners increased and this pushed up the prices of local cashew nuts by 15.4 percent.

    “The demand for cashew has gone up. A lot of foreigners are calling and asking for our cashew currently, and this is why the price has gone up,” said Zacheaus Egbewusi, chief executive officer, Agri Commodity Inspection Limited.
     
    “Cashew is being sold for N450, 000 per metric ton. It was sold between N370, 000 and N390, 000 per metric ton a month ago,” Egbewusi added.


    Also speaking with journalist at the event, Anga Sontoye, publicity secretary, NCAN, said “2016 was a wonderful year for cashew farmers and exporters. Our farmers will make more money in 2017 because output will increase by 10 percent and we prices are going to increase owing to lower value of naira against the dollar.”

    “Having done our cashew survey for key producing 24 states, we realise that some cashew trees have started producing nuts and this implies that we are going to see an early crop from January and by February serious export will commence,” Sontoye said.
     
    He stated that the price of a metric ton of cashew in the international market sells between $1,000 and $1,200. He also noted that Nigeria cashew industry will experience its greatest price regime in 2017 as the value of naira continues to drop against the dollars.
     
    Nigeria’s cashew is usually harvested between February-June, though farmers stock the crop and export it all year round.

    The stakeholders complained about foreign traders who are moving into farmlands to purchase produce directly from farmers and call on the government to address the issue.

     “It is not done anywhere in the world, that foreigners will come into the country and source their produce directly from farms. Government at all level needs to regulate their activities,” said Faseru.
     
    The stakeholders also requested for the grant of waivers for the importation of jute bags which is used in packaging cashew for exports. 
     
     
    Josephine Okojie


     

    Buhari: Will 2017 be kinder? – The Guardian

    By Abdulrazaq Magaji

    It has been one grudge fight which many knew would not be one-sided. It hasn’t been! From the onset, discerning Nigerians guessed, and rightly too, that corruption, the barrel-chested and hard-hitting defending champion will change tactics. This time, corruption is not into the usual rope-a-dope that would have been to the advantage of a frail-limbed but determined opponent.

    For an uppercut that momentarily got it staggered, corruption looks good to go the distance unless the administration musters the strength to throw killer punches. Corruption has done well so far and has literally silenced the vociferous crowd that has been yelling at the administration to finish off the fight. It’s a crucial fight for corruption and a fairly large number of its mainly privileged supporters have invaded the arena to show solidarity!

    Alongside the fumbling Goodluck Jonathan crowd, corruption was the other sore loser after the 2015 general elections. No one thought sore losers will capitulate and gather themselves in a corner to lick their wounds. They haven’t. But, for the first time since the return to participatory democracy in 1999, one issue on which most Nigerians find common ground lies in the fact that, in President Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, they have leaders on whose honour anyone could swear.

    Another common ground is found in the fact that Nigeria is on the rise again! Years of mindless despoliation and criminal display of impunity which rose from crass leadership deficit and which turned Africa’s supposed power house into a regional and global pariah is gradually being consigned to history. Nigeria is recovering its long-lost voice; it may not be loud and clear yet, but it is strident enough to be heard by the international community. In a manner of speech, Nigeria has returned to the table!

    Implacable compatriots who are denied by their blinkers to appreciate the emerging new Nigeria must have bellyached to no end at a recent allusion to a landslide victory for President Buhari if he decides to run in 2019. The recent allusion to a Buhari landslide victory by former PDP national chairman, Dr. Ahmadu Ali, a retired colonel and Olusegun Obasanjo military era minister (federal commissioner) of education must have surprised only those with eyes that do not see! For the first time in a long while, you could almost hear Nigerians chanting ‘Ali must not go!’
    Reason is that the top PDP man posited his prediction on the painstaking socio-economic engineering of the Buhari/Osinbajo administration which he reasoned will begin to yield dividends from 2017. It was based on this assessment that Dr. Ahmadu Ali brusquely told Nigerians who live in perpetual denial of the emerging Nigeria to take off their blinkers! Colonel Ali just reminded Nigerians that the era of deception so promoted by the now-dispersed PDP fumbling crowd, of which he was a great player, is gone for good.

    It may appear belated but, by finally taking off his blinkers in the evening of his life and refusing to celebrate PDP’s decade and half-long mediocrity, Dr. Ahmadu Ali has thrown a challenge to his colleagues! It is a challenge that has already been spurned by two divergent groups. The first group, made up of Nigerian Muslims and Christians is queerly led, encouraged and goaded on by supposedly enlightened and supposedly well-read Nigerians who, but for some curious reasons, should be sharing the platform with President Muhammadu Buhari, a man whose life is a virtual open book. 

    The second group, also made up of Nigerian Muslims and Christians spread across the country, is understandably made up of thieves in public office and complicit leeches in the private sector who are united in their desire to frustrate the emergence of a new Nigeria. It remains a mystery how the divergent groups found a common platform but for now, they have found an unlikely ally in their sterile ‘’Buhari is evil’’ chorus in a religious rabble that prides themselves in insubordination to constituted authority. Sad!

    In and out of power, General Buhari’s incorruptibility, his forthrightness and his transparency speak for him in a country best known for ill-prepared, unprepared and clueless leaders. This probably explains why he remains one of the few prominent Nigerians, indeed the only Nigerian leader, to be spared by the late rights activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi. And which also explains why former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, despite his caustic tongue distinguished President Buhari for praise. None of those programmed to hate him calls President Buhari a thief.

    As with all standard-bearers, President Buhari’s main crime is not refusing to steal when he had all the chances in the world to loot the treasury! No! After all there are many other Nigerians like him in that regard. His crime, and for which many have vowed to fight him for life is that he will not even allow criminals a breathing space! He will not steal and basic knowledge teaches that unrepentant thieves resist any system intended at exposing and sanctioning theft! It is hardly surprising that opponents of a sane Nigeria and parasites who can barely survive without hijacking public funds, are fighting back now that President Buhari is, against all odds, sure-footedly and diligently executing the presidency.

    Part of the fight was to depict the president as a religious bigot. Sadly, the unacceptably high illiteracy rate in Nigeria has not helped in clearing General Buhari of this false charge and gullible Nigerians continue to see the president from the picture that corrupt Nigerians have painted of him. When Buhari/Osinbajo administration pledged to stop treasury looters from running the nation aground, all the administration meant was to plug leakages, holes deliberately bored in the system to loot public funds.

    All the administration asked for and, all the administration believes Nigerians deserve, is a dedicated, committed and exemplary leadership which he is providing. Unfortunately, Nigerians continued to beat about the bush until the problem got out of hand before extending the invitation to President Buhari to rescue the nation. It is to the eternal luck of Nigerians that the onerous task of pulling Nigeria from the precipice where it was dumped by a thieving political class lies with the Buhari/Osinbajo administration; not with those programmed to despise the administration.

    This is enough reason why 2017 inspires hope…and confidence!

    • Magaji writes from Abuja