Lagos – The Wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari, has urged Nigerians to patronise made in Nigeria goods with a view to creating employment and strengthening the country’s economy.
Mrs Buhari made the call when she inaugurated the Made in Nigeria Tomoto Paste Factory, Erisco Foods Limited, on Thursday in Lagos.
She said that the need to patronise Nigerian goods had become necessary as it would encourage the production of local farm products and improve the health of citizens.
She also urged manufacturing companies in the country to emulate Erisco company by using locally available raw materials to produce their goods to ensure economic development.
She added that “I believe this is part of the change process which the present administration is all about.
“The event we are witnessing today is not only unique but also important because this company is able to produce 450,000 tonnes of tomato paste using local tomatoes.’’
She then commended the company for donating food items to Internally Displace Persons (IDPs) in the North East and also for providing employment to youths.
The Chief Executive Officer of Erisco Foods Limited, Mr Eric Umeofia, urged the Federal Government to sustain the formulation of positive policies that would enhance the production capacity of manufacturers.
He said that the foreign exchange restriction of 41 items from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) official corridor had saved the country in foreign exchange and compelled Nigerians to patronise home-grown foods.
Umeofia said that the company had fast track its backward integration programme by developing a technology that synchronised its existing machines to produce tomato paste directly from fresh tomatoes to tomato paste and tomato ketchup.
He said “the Erisco Foods Revolution in tomato paste production will stop the annual wastage of over 75 per cent of fresh tomatoes across Nigeria.
“If we continue with the good policies of the present administration, there will be nothing like tomato glut anywhere in Nigeria in the next two years.
“We as off-takers will produce and process to meet our local demands and export to earn foreign exchange, provided government continues to support us.
“Our backward integration programme is planned for Jigawa, Sokoto and Katsina and will generate employment for 50,000 Nigerians within three years.’’
According to him, the company has an installed production capacity of 450,000 tonnes per annum in its Lagos factory alone, making it the biggest in Africa and the fourth largest in the world.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Babachir Lawal, said government would continue to support the development of indigenous businesses to make production of local materials profitable.
Lawal, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Economic Affairs Office, Mr Williams Alo, said the current economic reality called for decisive policy thrust to address issues which must be pragmatic enough to leverage on.
He said that “the major concern of government is to continue to make policies and reforms, as well as stabilise the economic fundamentals and also to provide the necessary infrastructural platforms for industries to thrive on.
“Government will continue to intervene in policy formulation toward protecting our national interest and in the process, provide conducive atmosphere that will make production in Nigeria attractive and worth engaging.’’
On his part, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Okechukwu Enelamah, said Nigeria imported 150 million tonnes of concentrated tomatoes worth N170 million into the country annually.
Enelamah, who was represented by Alhaji Aminu Bisala, Permanent Secretary in the ministry, said that the local production of tomato paste would save Nigeria huge foreign exchange and create employment for its teeming population.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, urged the company to observe the norms of good manufacturing practices in their production to ensure safe food for human consumption.
Adewole, who was represented by the Director, Food and Drug Services Department in the ministry, Mrs Anthnia Opara, urged manufacturers in the country to fully implement the National Policy on Food Safety to ensure safety standard.
Mrs Buhari also visited the mother of the Vice President, Mama Olabisi Osinbajo at the Obanikoro area of Lagos, who celebrated her 83th birthday on Feb. 16.