By Nkiruka Nnorom
Former Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Ogun State, Mr. Bimbo Ashiru, has stressed the need for the government to de-emphasise food export and focus on encouraging local industries and foreign investors to invest in facilities that will make the nation self-sufficient in food production.
He state this at the on-going Food and Beverage (FAB) West Africa Expo in Lagos, saying that there is the need for the government to encourage more local production by creating the enabling environment that would help manufacturing firms and other businesses to thrive.
According to him, production must outstrip local consumption before the nation can comfortably export.
“I believe that we must meet the local needs first before we start exporting goods out of the country. if you don’t meet the local needs and you encourage too much exportation of food out of the country, our staple food will become very expensive, because everybody producing garri, for instance, will start producing for export purpose, but once we produce in excess, it will be a good avenue to start exportation.
“In Nigeria today, we produce an average of 45 million metric tons of cement and what we are consuming locally is about 30 million MTs. So, we have cement in excess and we can afford to export 15 million metric tons. So, the point is that we must protect our local industries first to ensure that our people are satisfied and once we do that, then, we can start exporting,” he said.
He stated that the foreign exhibitors, numbering over 150, have been encouraged to locate their industries in Nigeria and also source their raw materials from within the country, saying, “Cocoa is in Nigeria; you can source for your cocoa here. There are many cocoa industries that you can partner with.”
Ashiru expressed optimism that the government should someday make sourcing of foreign exchange, forex, for importation of food difficult in order to encourage more foreign direct investment in the country.
Jamie Hill, Managing Director, B2B Events, organisers of the exhibition, speaking, said: “The exhibition will enable Small and Medium Enterprises, SMEs, to benefit from the annual platform and showcase what they have to offer alongside the local and international power houses in the food and beverage sector.
“By offering local SMEs the opportunity to participate, we hope to facilitate their growth in the market and work towards the long term goal of increasing local production and exports from Nigeria across the region.”
Mrs Idongeist Mbaram, Executive Director, AgroNigeria, one of the exhibition partners, said: “As a matter of fact, businesses under the food and beverage value chain should see the event as a rare opportunity to connect with suppliers, distributors, manufacturers and to build a strong business relationship with clients across Nigeria and the entire West Africa countries and around the world.”