May 20, 2020

Shipping, other sectors count losses to lockdown


China records bigger surplus in trade with US despite Trump’s tariffs

•Customs agents puts losses at N500bn

By Godwin Oritse

China records bigger surplus in trade with US despite Trump’s tariffs

OPERATORS in various sectors of the economy are still counting their losses to the lockdown occasioned by the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic with the shipping sector estimating loss so far at N500 billion.

Vice President of the Association of the Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Mr. Kayode Farinto, who disclosed this while speaking to Vanguard Maritime Report, expressed worry that the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to about 35percent of work force losing their jobs, post-COVID 19.

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He said: “We have lost a lot of money, because the import from China stopped and about 65 percent of our imports comes from China so it has reduce our level of importation by 65percent. So the import is nose diving and unfortunately there is no encouragement from the government because the implementation of waiver on storage fee is zero.

“We have a situation now where our importers believe that we are thieves saying after all the government said they should waive demurrage. We have lost a lot of money that can’t be less than N500 billion in the last two months. And I am also seeing a situation where the work force in the maritime industry may reduce by 35 percent. I have spoken to about five shipping companies and they said 50 percent of their workforce has been asked to stay at home in line with the guidelines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of them actually said they don’t know if they can work with 50 percent work force meaning that post COVID-19 a lot of people will lose their job.”

Speaking in similar vein, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Fashion Wear Dealers Association, Lagos State, Chief Mezie Okwuosa, said importers have been at the receiving end of the pandemic. He said: “The whole world is calculating what they have lost and they are still losing.

There is no sector that does not record heavy loss as regards this virus but mostly importers are at the receiving end. The loss cannot be quantified and the loss is just about to start. Also note that most big time businessmen thrive on credit from the financial institutions.

“The major victims now are the people that have financial commitment with their banks. Will the banks insist on the earlier conditions before giving the loan or will they consider the people? Because look at it now, for an importer who has a daily turnover of about N1million to N2million daily before going into the business. Now the person has stayed six weeks out of business and now they only operate six hours in a day and three times a week within those six hours and there is strict compliance in the market what will such person do?”

Speaking also, Chairman of Alaba International Market Association (Electronics), Mr. Paulinus Ugochukwu, said since the lockdown he has lost several millions of naira, stating that many importers are already out of business. “I am dealing with musical instruments and now they have closed everywhere, the churches, hotels, clubs, and mosques amongst others, everything that deals with musical instruments are closed, there is no business for us now, we are out of business”, he said.

Meanwhile, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, freight forwarders as well as importers have lamented the negative impact of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic in the maritime industry. Both the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industries, LCCI, and the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, expressed worries that the government has lost several billions of naira which could have been used to develop the nation since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country.

The Director General of LCCI, Dr Muda Yusuf, in a chat with Vanguard Maritime Report stated that, with about 65 to 70 percent of the country’s imports coming from China, several billions of Naira must have been lost in import duty which could be difficult to regain in few years.

According to him, “The pandemic has really affected every section of the maritime industry, from the importers to the freight forwarders and the terminal operators and other people attached to the logistic chain of driving the economy in the maritime industry. I may not be able to give an exact amount of how much must have been lost, but what I can tell you is that the industry has lost money running into several billions of naira.

“You are aware that about 60 to 70 percent of our import comes from China, and of course with that, you can actually look at how much must have been lost in the industry, so it has affected every sector even the logistic chain of the industry”. While expressing fears of the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the industry, especially as it concerns the manufacturers, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, urged the Federal Government to urgently declare a state of emergency in the manufacturing sector and immediately place the sector on an integrated policy ventilator through the provision of a comprehensive support systems and stimulus packages to swiftly return the sector to the path of sustained production.

According to a report made available to our correspondent by the Corporate Communication Manager of MAN, Mrs. Tayo Okewunmi, titled “MAN CEOs Confidence Index, MCCI”, the group further said, “with the radical drop in the price of crude oil, coupled with the outbreak of the pandemic which has significantly impacted on all facets of the world’s economy, it has been pretty difficult to source forex from all the available windows.”

MAN further lamented that asides the confrontation of the pandemic, the persistent traffic gridlock in the approaches to the country’s port facilities and perennial congestion have remained a recurring decimal, leading to delay in clearance of manufacturing inputs and machinery as well as high demurrage which increases the cost of production in the sector.
The association said most worrisome are the issues of deliberate delay in cargo clearing time, raising of technical barriers, rejection of relevant documents by officers of the agency that approved import documents, multiple agencies with duplicated functions and other rent seeking activities of vested interests at the port that excessively fleece operators.

While urging the government to urgently conduct a comprehensive review of all the contributory factors and consciously implement ongoing reforms in a manner that all port-related challenges that seemingly appears to have defied all solutions are permanently resolved.