By Victor Ahiuma-Young
Employers in the Food, Beverage and Tobacco sector of the economy, have pleaded with the Federal Government to engage the Organized Private Sector, OPS, and other stakeholders on the recent policy pronouncements concerning foreign exchange restriction on imported goods in the food sub-sector to avoid job loss and business collapse.
On the platform of the Association of Food Beverages and Tobacco Employers, AFBTE, the employers, specifically appealed to the Federal Government to engage the OPS and stakeholders in the food industry to discuss the issues involved thoroughly to arrive at a way forward.
In a statement yesterday, President of AFBTE, Chief Patrick Anegbe, said “the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, had towards the end of July announced the decision to deny access to foreign exchange for the importation of milk and other dairy products. The negative economic implications of this move in the short run on the performance of the affected Companies and the overall economy have been widely highlighted by experts, industrialists and managers of the targeted businesses. One critical aspect is the impact the sudden ban will have on the overall financial results of the companies affected which will also likely lead to loss of jobs among others. The Organised Private Sector (OPS) had tried to draw the attention of CBN to the danger in not allowing for a reasonable period of time for those concerned to make adequate preparations to source their imported milk and dairy products locally.
“The engagement on this CBN pronouncement was still on when news came that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria had at an event in his home State during the Eid-el-Kabir holiday, announced that he had instructed the CBN not to allocate foreign exchange for importation of food. While there is need for clarification on this directive regarding whether all food products or some food products are to be affected, it is important to state that this move may end up working against the very reason the plan is being conceived of. A meeting with stakeholders to discuss the backward integration agenda of Government and a follow-up period of moratorium to enable the current food products importing companies to source needs locally would have helped in stemming some of the dangers inherent in these policy pronouncements.
“We appeal to Government to engage the OPS and stakeholders in the food industry to discuss the issues involved in this matter more thoroughly before a final position on how to proceed is taken. We would like to trust that the government will allow for this step in the spirit of our sustained partnership with it over the years in addressing the various economic issues affecting the Nigerian state.”