The Union of Tomato Paste Manufacturers in Nigeria has said the once vibrant tomato industry might stop existing in 2017 if the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) does not amend its policy on forex to exclude triple concentrate tomato paste from the scope of the 41 items under the restricted list.
The union, through its spokesman, Mr. Nnamdi Nnodebe made this known in a press statement.
The managing director of Sonia Foods Industries Limited, one of the stakeholders in the production of tomato paste variants, disclosed that the total investment in the packing manufacturing sector of tomato paste is about N19 billion, saying, “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 second largest in Africa might die before the second quarter of next year if the ban on Forex is not lifted.”
According to him, 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 among others, but they will no longer be able to fulfill all these.
“It makes better economics to import the raw materials that will enable production, grow the economy and keep jobs rather than importing the finished products or frustrating efforts to get the raw materials, thereby rendering millions jobless which might further kill the economy.
“The local packing industry can also form the hub for exports to the hinterland countries as there are adequate local capacities to more than cater to the domestic requirement. Using the ECOWAS benefits, this can be a huge foreign exchange earner for the country today and in the near future. Through the growth of the tomato industry Nigeria can compete with China instead of buying the finished goods from them.
“It is important for the government to recognize that the packing industry is an essential component of the tomato paste value chain and without this sector there can be no link between the farmer and the final consumer.