Image: Mr. Sani Dangote
*Signs MoU with Dutch Agric Organisation*
Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG), the Agribusiness sector Operators platform, led by Mr. Sani Dangote, has thrown its weight behind the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s foreign exchange restriction policy as well as the refusal of Bank to devalue the naira as is being suggested by international finance institutions and multi-lateral agencies.
The CBN in the past few months has been under pressure over the decision to ban sourcing of foreign exchange for the importation of 41 items for which Nigeria has comparative advantage as well as its resistance to international pressure for the devaluation of the nation’s currency.
The NABG Chairman stressed that his group believes that the CBN forex policy especially as it affects commodities like tomato puree, rice, palm oil and other agric produce is the correct step to save the nation’s economy from impending crisis and return it to the path of sustainable growth.
Sani Dangote who was part of the panel of discussant at the 4th EU-Nigeria business forum in Lagos said: “We commend the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, for taking this bold step. We have companies who employ thousands of Nigerians; we have small farm holders who will produce for the country’s need. We cannot do this overnight but it has to start from somewhere and if the federal government kills the incentive to start from the grass root level, you can never reach the level to be self-sufficient.”
He said the decision by CBN is the right move required to stimulate local production, maintaining that allowing imports would only suppress local production.
”If we do not stimulate it now, when will there be the time to do this. Once you allow some imports to come in and be dumped on the local market it will certainly suppress local incentive and indigenous initiative and there is no way any investor will deploy resources to develop the sector, there is no way the local farmers, rural farmers will find the opportunity to grow,” he said.
In his words: “This is the right step forward, whatever Nigeria has the capacity to produce must be encouraged to grow, whether we have trillions of dollars in the government coffers or not, the federal government should continue with this policy until local capacity is enhanced.”
He advised that the CBN should make more capital and funding available and affordable for the farmers to grow in order to achieve the nation’s quest for economic diversification, while stating that it was heartwarming that the apex bank recently agreed to provide funds for tomato out-growers in the country toward enhancing their capacity to boost output and meet the requirement of tomato processing companies in the country.
Dangote then tasked the commercial banks and other financial institutions in the country to support the effort of CBN in funding agricultural enterprises in the country.
“To do this, there is need to empower seed development, empower research development institutions, enhance mechanization, training for the farmers and provide affordable long-term loans for farmers. If these are done, I can guarantee that in the next year or two, we will see a very high level of change in terms of the capacity to produce,” he said.
The NABG chairman also noted that the group signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a Dutch Organisation, Top Sector Agric Food, the agribusiness development unit of the Dutch government, to facilitate and encourage the growth of agribusiness in Nigeria, ranging from livestock to horticulture and other agro-allied industries, pointing out that this move by the group would expose Nigeria’s agricultural sector to global opportunities while also bringing investment opportunities into the country.
Dangote indicated that the group has entered into similar partnerships with other foreign organizations, including one with Adepta of France and the Kenya Agribusiness Group, while stating that plans were afoot for similar MoUs to be signed with Irish and UK agribusiness groups.
“Today, we are looking for ways to improve the nation’s agricultural sector especially with a large population dependent on agriculture. As a whole, this country cannot really move forward without developing the sector’s potentials. These potentials cannot be valuable if they are not exploited to reflect positively on the lives of people and on the economy,” he said.
He said the group was invited to the Netherlands to visit many agro-allied industries, agricultural facilities as well as research and development centres to seek investment opportunities for the nation’s agro-allied sector.
Also speaking at the event, the Managing Director, Presco Oil Palm Plc, Mr. Francis Nwabogu, said the decision by the CBN would at its initial stage be challenging for businesses, but stressed that it would benefit the economy at large in no distant time.
“Looking at this decision from the national point of view, it is better for us to cry now and laugh later than to laugh now and cry later. There have been attempt to go down this route but there have been lobbies to thwart the decision. If we take the bull by the horn, those feeling the hitch now will be better for it in the nearest future,” he said.
According to the Presco Managing Director, in terms of oil palm production, the next five or six years from now with about five or six companies planting consistently, a lot of economic activities will be generated, thousands of people will be employed, government will earn more tax revenue and it will be a win-win situation for the entire country.
On his part, the Coordinator, NABG, Mr. Emmanuel Ijewere, stressed the need for Nigeria to take some decisions going forward, saying that Nigeria must be ready to experience what he called a “short-term suffering” to achieve economic growth and development.
”We need to take some decisions to achieve what we want going forward. We must be ready for short-term suffering to be able to achieve economic growth and development. Most of the developed economies in the world today did not go through a pleasurable time all through but sacrificed and today, they are benefitting from it. We cannot continue to postpone the sacrifice we have to make. The sacrifice is easier made today because it will become even more complex next year or in ten years’ time,” he said.
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