The Union of Tomato Paste Manufacturers in Nigeria through its spokesman, Mr. Nnamdi Nnodebe, has hinted that the once vibrant industry might stop existing next year if the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) does not amend its policy on foreign exchange, Forex, excluding triple concentrate tomato paste from the scope of the 41 items under the restricted list.
Speaking recently in Lagos, Nnodebe, the Managing Director of Sonia Foods Industries Limited, one of the stakeholders in the production of tomato paste variants said, “A good analogy would be, when someone is sick instead of providing an alternative treatment you take away the only treatment because you feel the drugs are not the best in the market but you still fail to provide an alternative; what do you think will happen to the sick person?”
According to him, “While trying to heal the economy, the pillars that hold the economy together is being removed. Pillars such as the tomato industry are invaluable to growing a vibrant economy. The total investment in the packing manufacturing sector of tomato paste is about nineteen billion Naira. The economy cannot afford to lose such a huge industry that provides millions of direct and indirect jobs for Nigerians. The fact is this industry that grew to be the 13th largest in the world and 2nd largest in Africa might die before the second quarter of next year if the ban on Forex is not lifted.”
“The unavailability of tomato paste triple concentrate for the industry will grind production to a halt; meaning millions of people who depend on the industry for their livelihood will lose their jobs or have reduced income. The impact of this on the economy will be massive and negative as consumer behaviour will also be influenced leading to low purchase of goods in all sectors, not just tomato. These workers also patronise electronics shops, banks, petrol stations, they pay taxes etc. but they will no longer be able to fulfill all these.” He added.
He is however hopeful that the CBN, policy makers and the federal government would appreciate the sacrifices made by some dogged believers in the Nigerian economy. These never-say-nay entrepreneurs despite numerous huddles they endure such as inadequate power, bad roads, multiple taxation, recession, smuggling and now Forex exclusion, they have continued to produce, sometimes at a great loss to get the products to millions of homes.