CBN worries over import bill on tomatoes
ABUJA – The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has expressed dismay over the N11.7 billion spent yearly by the government for the importation of processed tomato paste, stressing that such a colossal sum of monies could better be used to grow the commodity locally.
The apex bank said that the simple reason for this ugly trend was largely due to the dysfunctional agricultural value chain system in Nigeria, resulting in about 50 per cent of the tomato produced in the country being lost to lack of preservation, poor marketing distribution and access to markets.
The CBN Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi stated this on Tuesday in a welcome address to a one-day Stakeholders Forum on ‘’Partnering to build a competitive tomato industry in Nigeria’’ held in Abuja.
The CBN governor, who was represented by the Deputy-Governor, Economic Policy of the apex bank, Dr. Sarah Alade said, ‘’globally, Nigeria is the 14th largest producer of tomatoes and second only to Egypt in Africa at 1.51 million metric tonnes valued N87.0 billion with a cultivated area of 254,430 hectares. It is worrisome that as at today, Nigeria imports 65,809 tons of processed tomato paste valued at N11.7 billion annually.”
He said that it was on this premise that the CBN intervene with programme such as the N200 billion Commercial Agricultural Lending —NIRSAL, to support the federal government of Nigeria’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda—ATA.
According to the governor, the initiatives were implemented to improve access to finance by the agri-business at single digit interest rate and as part of commitment towards revolutionizing the sector.
The N200 billion Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme has disbursed a total sum of N199.25 billion to 270 projects since inception, including 30 state governments’ projects, the SME Restructuring and Refinancing Fund—SMERRF disbursed, N235.00 billion to 535 projects also,’’ he noted.
According to him, in building a competitive tomato industry in Nigeria, developing successful and effective partnership among stakeholders had become very essential element.
He stressed that the forum was therefore organised to focus on strengthening Nigeria’s tomato industry through partnership.
He charged the forum to forge effective partnerships to address the constraints militating against Nigeria’s full exploitation of the gains of the tomato industry such as poor quality seedlings, low productivity, inadequate infrastructure, lack of effective information and communication flow across the value chain among others.
In her address to the forum, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said that the ministry was ready to work with the CBN and other stakeholders for the transformation of the sector.
Represented by Dr. Ismael Igwe at the occasion, the minister stated that her ministry was already working in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure that farmers were supported to increase tomato production in Nigeria for local consumption and for exports. – GUARDIAN