By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), said, Friday day, that some people were working against its intention to restrict foreign exchange to milk importers in the country.
According to the bank, the decision to encourage local milk production was in the interest of the nation which was more important than any other and must be seen as such.
The bank said that those who did not want Nigeria to produce milk for local consumption had started misinforming the public on the policy.
It explained that the importation of the commodity was not banned but that the foreign exchange for its importation was the only target of the apex bank.
The bank said, “The attention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been drawn to attempts by some interests, who feel hurt by the planned policy aimed at promoting the local production of milk in Nigeria, to mislead the general public by misrepresenting the ordinarily unassailable case for investments in local milk production and the medium to long-term benefits of the planned policy.
“While we are aware that some of our policies may hurt some business interests, we are thankful to Nigerians for the buy-in and intense interest in the policies of the CBN. As a people-oriented institution, however, we shall remain focused on the overarching and ultimate welfare of the Nigerian masses.
“We therefore wish to, once again, reiterate our policy case as it relates to the planned restriction of access to the Nigerian Foreign Exchange market by importers of milk:
“Nigeria and the welfare of all Nigerians come first in all our policy considerations. Being an apolitical organization, we do not wish to be dragged into politics. Our focus remains ensuring forex savings, job creation and investments in the local production of milk.
“For over 60 years, Nigerian children and indeed adults have been made to be heavily dependent on milk imports. The national food security implications of this can easily be imagined, particularly, when it is technically and commercially possible to breed the cows that produce milk in Nigeria.
“About three years ago, we began a policy to encourage backward integration to conserve foreign exchange and create jobs for our people. Included in this policy package was the introduction of the highly successful policy which restricted sale of forex from the Nigerian foreign exchange market for the importation of some 43 items goods that could be produced in Nigeria.
“Arising from the success of the restriction policy, we approached some milk importers, like we did for rice, tomato and starch and asked them to take advantage of CBN’s low-interest loans to begin local milk production instead of relying endlessly on milk imports.
“Today, although there have been some successful attempts at producing milk locally, the vast majority of the importers still treat this national aspiration with imperial contempt.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Milk importation is not banned. Indeed, the CBN has no such power. All we will do is to restrict sale of forex for the importation of milk from the Nigerian foreign exchange market.
“We wish to reiterate that we remain ready and able to provide the needed finance to enable investors who genuinely want to engage in milk production.
“The ongoing resort to blackmail and undue politicization through the use of social media attacks can only serve to strengthen our resolve to wean our country from the clutches of powerful and highly influential traders and dealers who have kept the masses of our people hostage to foreign consumption and condemned our youths to perpetual unemployment.
“We call on Nigerians to enlist in this vanguard to take our economy back from vested interests, make our country a productive economy and create jobs for our teeming youths.”
Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) has appealed to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to retrace its steps on the proposed policy to restrict foreign exchange allocation for milk importation.
Baba Othman Ngelzarma National Secretary of MACBAN made the call in a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Abuja.
“Although a desired long term outcome where local production substitutes importation, implementation of such a policy requires a robust strategy that addresses underlying issues,’’ the statement quoted Ngelzarma as saying.
According to him, MACBAN notes that the National Livestock Transformation Plan of (NLTP) as an integrated plan will holistically solve the historic challenges that have deprived the pastoralists from producing high quantity and quality beef and dairy products demanded by the Nigerian market.
He said NLTP would do this by ensuring that the pastoralists goods do not end up being sold at sub-standard prices.
The association said that NLTP would modernise the industry by allowing ranches to develop organically with pastoralists as core participants in the livestock production chain.
He said that the move would ultimately impact wealth creation.
“In view of this, we are advising the CBN to retrace its steps and take a productive role that does not undo the work done to date.
“As much as the infusion of capital into the livestock sub-sector is deeply appreciated and welcome, it must occur in the right strategic, stakeholders and cluster development context as provided in the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) framework.
“As much as the infusion of capital into the livestock sub-sector is deeply appreciated and welcome, it must occur in the right strategic, stakeholder and cluster development context as provided in the NLTP framework.
“It will also help to transfer knowledge mechanisms. This we strongly believe that it is safer, more stable sustainable pathway than one which favours only one part of the livestock system.
“Therefore, for MACBAN, the recent discussions between the CBN’s Development Finance Department and dairy processors is a non-starter,’’ the statement quoted Ngelzarma as saying.
According to him, the challenge is not solved by lending money at nine per cent and requiring dairy companies to go to Kaduna, Niger, Plateau, Kano or Oyo to locate and develop at least 10,000 hectares of land within a grazing reserve commencing on or before September.
Ngelzarma said the association believed that approach did not speak to the aspirations of its members.
He said without the pastoralists, crop farmers, processors, bankers, ranchers, technical workers, extension service providers, geneticists, and other stakeholders being involved, “the likelihood of failure will be very high’’.
Ngelzarma noted that the challenges had deprived the pastoralists from producing high quantity and quality beef and the dairy products demanded by the Nigerian market, ensuring that their goods do not end up being sold at sub-standard prices.
He said that partnering with domestic and foreign value chain actors was critical.
“Whether with fodder and pasture specialists at National Animal Production Institution (NAPRI), Zaria or dairy processors from Europe or cross breeding specialists from Brazil.
“It can also be vaccine developers from the National Veterinary Research Institution (NVRI) Vom in Jos as well as partnership across the livestock ecosystem is a requirement.
“Any plan that does not place such a step at its core is doomed to fail,’’ he said.
The association said that the invitation given to the diary processors to come up with their own plan on how they would develop their dairy farms of at least 10,000 hectares was disturbing.
“This move is disastrous on two counts, firstly, it disregards completely Federal Government approved NLTP.
“The approval that clearly outlines the necessary steps needed to be taken to transform the livestock sub-sector over 10 years in line with the desires and aspirations of all consulted stakeholders.
“Secondly, the need for Federal Government regulations and incentives for the roles of all partners in the transformation processes to achieve the goals of peaceful coexistence between crop farmers and pastoralists.
“Also to enhance the pastoral productivity through organic modernisation of the pastoral production base with capacity to retain their cultural livestock linkage in modernity and innovation for generations to come.
Ngelzarma said that it was important that the spirit of partnership and transparent dialogue with which the NLTP was developed be maintained and should allowed to thrive.
“Transforming Nigeria’s livestock sub sector from a basic, subsistence low technology, conflict-stricken status into a world class, productive, safe and profitable industry devoid of conflicts requires the involvement of all stakeholders including the pastoralists and crop farmers,’’ he said.
The association, however, urged the CBN to join all-inclusive reformist efforts underway under the NLTP rather than reinvent the wheel once again.