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Farmers, Agribusiness Men Backs CBN’s Forex Exclusion List to Boost Agric Devt - THISDAY

JANUARY 25, 2022

BY  Gilbert Ekugbe

Agricultural stakeholders have claimed that the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) forex exclusion list has engendered a virile agricultural sector in the country in spite of its challenges.

Some experts observed that the policy has forced farmers and agri-business men to embrace backward integration projects for local cultivation of raw materials due.

The apex bank has continued to sustain the policy despite complaints and pressures to review the list, and this is believed to have contributed meaningfully to the agricultural sector.

The National President of Potato Farmers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Dan Okafor, said: “It is true that the forex restrictions contributed to food production in Nigeria.”

The Governor of the CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has consistently defended the restriction of foreign exchange access to more than 41 import items.

Emefiele argued that it is necessary to protect the economy from the importation of items that could dampen the local production and economic growth.

He noted that the implementation of forex policy on certain items had led to improvements in the domestic production of those items and a reduction in Nigeria’s import bill.

The forex-restricted items prohibition list includes rice, cement, margarine, palm kernel, palm oil products, vegetable oils, meat and processed meat products, vegetables and processed vegetable products.

Others are poultry, including chicken, eggs, turkey, private airplanes/jets, Indian incense, tinned fish in sauce (sardines), cold rolled steel sheets, roofing sheets, wheelbarrows, head pans, metal boxes and containers, enamelware, steel drums, steel pipes, wire rods (deformed and not deformed), iron rods and reinforcing bars, wire mesh, steel nails, security and razor wire, wood particle boards and panels, wood fiber boards and panels and wooden doors.

Supporting the policy, the National President of Catfish and Allied Fish Farmers Association of Nigeria (CAFFAN), Mr. Momoh Mustapha, said: “The position of the government is a good step in the right direction.

“Any nation that continues to import is empowering other nations. We must encourage local production and create jobs for our people. That’s the way to go.”

Similarly, the apex bank has refused to lift the ban on foreign exchange for importation of stockfish heads despite several complaints and appeal by Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC).

It was gathered that the stakeholders had been mounting pressure that CBN should lift the ban on forex for importation of stock fish heads into Nigeria since February 2021, but the apex bank has refused to yield its position.

According to NSC Director, Africa, Mr. Trond Kostveit, notwithstanding the CBN’s reluctance, the value of the seafood imported from Norway to Nigeria was 40,000 metric tonnes valued at N41.3 billion ($75 million), noting that the dominating products were stock fish, stockfish heads, herring and mackerel.

However, the Fisheries Consultant to NSC in Nigeria and a former Deputy Director in the Federal Department of Fisheries, Ms. Abbey Cheke, asked relevant authorities to stop listing stock fish as animal feeds, stressing that apart from its nutritional value, stock fish does not compete with any fishing process in Nigeria.

Chke noted that stock fish and stock fish heads were processed from the finest of codfish, which could only be found in the coldest of waters and could never be produced in Nigerian water.

On his part, the Royal Norwegian Ambassador, Knut Eiliv Lein, assured stakeholders that Norway would continue to partner with Nigeria to make stockfish cheaper for the populace, pleading with the Federal Government of Nigeria to allow forex access for stock fish importation.

The Chairman of Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Imo State Chapter and National Public Relations Officer, CAFFAN, Mr. Uchegbu Chijioke Nicholas, said: “If the government should give a verifiable support to local fish farmers in Nigeria, I will support the policy, but if it is to promote maximum beef consumption, I will advise them to liberalise the market.”

Meanwhile, the federal government has spent $1.68 billion on food importation between January and September 2021.

The CBN disclosed this in a report on sectorial utilisation of foreign exchange for the third quarter of 2021.

According to the CBN, the government spent $163.60 million, $197.73 million, and $171.05 million in January, February and March, respectively while $156.30 million, $135.72 million and $213.58 million were spent in April May and June, respectively. The report also revealed that $184.69 million, 188.88 million and 271.59 million were spent in July, August and September, respectively.

During a Bankers’ Committee retreat in Lagos recently, Emefiele said Nigeria could produce enough to feed its citizens.

He said: “We believe that Nigeria can feed itself; Nigeria can produce what it eats. Everything needs to be done for us to move away from a situation where everything is imported. “We need to get to a stage where we bring our manufacturing industries back to life again. For us to say that there is sustainable, inclusive growth in the country, we, as banks, working with the government, must do everything possible to diversify the Nigerian economy,” he said.


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