By Oluwafunke Ishola
Chief Eric Umeofia, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Erisco Foods, has decried the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) foreign exchange policies, saying they were stifling local manufacturers’ operations and growth.
Umeofia said this on Tuesday in Lagos at a news conference.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Erisco Foods is an indigenous tomato paste manufacturing company that employs thousands of Nigerians.
“Our reason for investing in the country is not only for money but also to help our people and our country to achieve her vision in line with government’s agenda to diversify the economy.
“In our effort to support the government, we developed a technology that enabled us to produce tomato paste with fresh and dry tomatoes.
“We have spent over N4 billion to buy dry tomatoes and fresh tomatoes that ought to have wasted as usual from our local farmers, but it is just lying in our warehouses for lack of Forex approval.
“The forex is to get enough machines sufficient for our capacity to convert them into quality raw materials for the production of tomato paste and to meet up with our packaging lines, to reduce our production cost.
“In view of the above, we will start to lay off about 1,500 of our staff in batches and start moving our machines and equipment out of the country,’’ the manufacturer said.
He said the planned downsizing and plant relocation should be completed in six months to nine months.
Umeofia said that the relocation of production plant to China would increase unemployment, tomato waste and the food import bill of the country.
He said government’s diversification agenda would be enhanced through effective processing of agricultural produce.
According to him, the country should move beyond producing primary agricultural products and into processing and manufacturing to enable farmers to reap from their cultivation.
“The bumper harvest we are experiencing now is as a result of the people’s determination to go back to farm in line with the campaign for more people to embrace Agriculture.
“If we are serious about diversifying the economy, we must go beyond producing primary agricultural products and go into processing, preserving and manufacturing.
“That is how to encourage farmers to work harder,” Umeofia said.