Chief Executive Officer of Erisco Foods Limited, Chief Eric Umeofia, has lamented that the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) is aiding foreign traders under the disguise of importing raw materials to import finished tomato paste.
Umeofia who stated this in a press briefing in Lagos on Tuesday noted that Dr Frank Jacobs, MAN President was wrong to have stated that it was not yet time to ban import of tomato paste.
He opposed the association’s submission that tomato paste ban was ill timed due to the inability of local manufacturers to bridge the demand gap in the country.
The tomato paste revolutionist stated that local demand for tomato paste was 150, 000 metric tons, but Erisco plant had the capacity to produce over 450, 000 metric tons per annum.
Umeofia stressed that his company’s production coupled with production from other tomato paste manufacturers were sufficient to meet local demands and export the excess for foreign exchange earnings.
Umeofia noted; “Manufacturing is not trading. It is a sacrifice to see the country develop in all areas, so we should give credit and support to indigenous manufacturers.
“A situation whereby importers of tomato paste are rising, while local manufacturers are declining is not acceptable.”
He noted that the CBN is not sincere with disbursement of foreign exchange, adding that they grant the country’s hard earned forex to foreign manufacturers under the auspices of MAN.
He pointed out that the funds allocated to these foreign manufacturers would have been used for procurement of machinery, raw materials and expansion projects.
However, he commended the Federal government’s recent ban on importation of tomato paste, stressing that the step would help recover the economy from recession, stimulate local production, aid export of tomato paste and create jobs.
“Government has taken a laudable step to ban importation of tomato paste to boost activities in the tomato sector value chain but access to affordable finance is crucial to the growth of the industry.
“Paying over 20 per cent as interest rate hinders business growth but with government’s support, Nigeria can be the largest exporter of tomato paste in the world in few years’ time. This is due to our advantage oftwo harvest season annually and tomatoes harvested in large quantities in the country.
“But since the inception of Erisco, we have only been able to produce at 20 per cent capacity but with increased support, we should be able to increase production to 80 per cent and export to earn foreign exchange for the country,” he said.
He advised the government to ensure effective implementation of the policy, reduce smuggling and provide adequate supply of high yield seeds to farmers to aid success of the policy.