‘Forex ban on food import’ll lead to 3.5m job loss’

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MIXED reactions from stakeholders continued to trail President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to stop providing fund for food importation.

The National President, Rice Farmers Association (RIFAN), Mallam Aminu Goronyo described the directive as a welcome development and a good deal to achieve food self-sufficiency in the country.

He recalled that in 2015, similar ban was placed on importation of rice but was criticised, adding that today, it has made the rice sector strong and viable.

According to him, the current ban will make the country great as it will empower Nigerians economically in terms of employment.

“At least 90 per cent of Nigerians will be gainfully engage, through agriculture.

“We have over 54 commodities in the country and the moment we can provide employment through these 54 commodities, Nigeria will be economically variable.

“It is 100 per cent a welcome idea; we had experienced this in 2015 in the rice sector and for now that it cuts across all commodities, Nigerians will be happy at the end.’’

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The Onitsha  Chamber  of  Commerce,  Industry,  Mines  and  Agriculture (ONICCIMA) expressed concern that about  3.5 million jobs will be  negatively  affected  by  the  policy  if  implemented.

Its Director-General,  Stanley Anyadufu,  said  about  $1.5 billion worth  of ongoing food related transactions, would be put at risk based on  the new  policy.

He said: “We  wholly  align  with  the  current  government’s  pursuit  towards  achieving  self  sufficiency  on food security in the country but issuance of certain policies especially on such sectors as food sector,  considering  its  importance  to  human  existence  and  the  country’s  current  production should be well thought out.

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“We  note  that  35 per cent  of  business  ventures  in  Nigeria  are  into  food  and  food  value  chain.  It  is estimated that about 541,000 food related businesses, accounting for over 3.5 million jobs will be  negatively  affected  by  this  policy  if  implemented.  What  is  more,  about  $1.5billion  worth  of ongoing food related transactions that are already at risk due to the policy with consequence of losses and possible shutdown.

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“Thus, any policy that will impact this sector must be measured and implemented methodologically.”

The policy, the chamber said, is capable of causing  interference on the independence of the CBN as contained in the CBN ACT, 2007, as amended; lead to spontaneous high cost of food items with consequence on inflation rate; lead to increase on smuggling of food items due to porous borders in the country; lead. proliferation of poor quality food items especially those that the country lacks adequate production capacity on at the moment

The Senior Special Adviser on Publicity and Strategy to the National President of Commodities Brokers Association of Nigeria (CBAN), Mr  Is’haq Yahaya, however, described the proposed ban as a “mistake’’.

Yahaya said although the idea behind the ban was good, it would cause hardship for the people.

“It will cause what we call imported inflation; it will bring hardship to the masses before things could get better.

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“Some economists may say it will force Nigerians to start producing internally and make the nation look inward; the truth is that there is need to review the outcome of this action.

“I think it is a mistake for such policy to take effect immediately; it should have been like a step by step thing.

“It is a good thing to make people produce internally but it has to do with individual or societal discipline with regard to economic.

“As far as I am concerned it is not a good one to have it too quickly even if it is a strategy to turn around the economy,’’ he said.

On his part, the National President of Potato Farmers Association of Nigeria (POFAN), Mr Daniel Okafor commended the president for the directive, urging farmers to key into the opportunity.

(The Nation)