By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA – THE Vice President, Dangote Group, Alhaji Sani Dangote, alleged that Federal Government’s indecision has slowed down local production of tomatoes in the country.
Dangote made the assertion when speaking on the challenges faced by tomato processors and farmers in the country, as he decried the continued importation of the commodity into the country.
He said: “There is still a lot importation of tomato paste coming into the country despite Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, saying it will not give importers Dollars for importation, but other countries like China have brought down their prices by more than 50 per cent to ensure that even though there is devaluation in Naira they would still be able to sell to those who want to buy through the parallel market.
“It is very unfortunate that the continued importation of tomato paste will make thousands of farmers suffer. Nigerian government has been talking for one year and up till now there has been no clear policy and where we are heading.
“The Minister of Agriculture is saying of bringing the importers and processors, and trying to find a common ground. There is no way you can find a common ground when somebody’s business is about importing and somebody’s business is about local production.
“So the clear cut decision is what is hampering the situation. They have promised when we approached all the ministries concerned to take a proper decision before July there will be policy in place, but today, there is still no policy and guidelines, unfortunately, this is the state we are, and we are waiting and watching.
“Our hope is if the President can take the initiative and address the situation. As of now there is no change in the industry because the ministries have failed to take the initiative, and we hope it will get to him very soon and if he takes the right decision and direction.”
According to him, importation will continue to frustrate the local companies and force them out of business, but want the government to come up with policies that will promote and protect local industries in the spirit of ‘the change begins with me’ slogan of this administration.
“We are not looking for forex but that government should come up with a policy. We are not doing retail packaging but industrial packaging. There are 30 companies in Nigeria who are into tomato paste importing and they should be stopped from importing, rather they buy the local tomato so they can put in smaller tins to package and sell”, he said.