Nigeria saves $21bn from forex restriction on food items – Emefiele

By Emeka Ejere

The various initiatives aimed at encouraging domestic production, have resulted in Nigeria’s monthly import bill falling significantly from $665.4 million in January 2015, to $160.4 million as at October 2018, representing a drop by 75.9 per cent and an implied savings of over US$21 billion on food imports alone over that period.

These were the submissions of the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, in his keynote speech at the 53rd Annual Bankers’ Dinner of the Chartered Institute of Bankers (CIBN) held in Lagos.

Emefiele observed that many entrepreneurs are now taking advantage of policies aimed at ramping local production to venture into the domestic production of the restricted items with remarkable successes and great positive impact on employment.

He said: “The dramatic decline in our import bill and the increase in domestic production of these items attest to the efficacy of this policy.

“Most evident were the 97.3 percent cumulative reduction in monthly rice import bills, 99.6 percent in fish, 81.3 percent in milk, 63.7 per cent in sugar, and 60.5 percent in wheat.

“We are glad with the accomplishments recorded so far. Accordingly, this policy is expected to continue with vigour until the underlying imbalances within the Nigerian economy have been fully resolved.

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“If we continue to support the growth of small holder farmers, as well as help to revive palm oil refineries, rice mills, cassava and tomato processing factories, you can only imagine the amount of wealth and jobs that will be created in the country.

Recall that the CBN had in July 2015, restricted 41 items, including vegetable oil, poultry products, toothpicks, cosmetics, plastic and rubber products, among others, from accessing foreign exchange from the interbank foreign exchange market.

Importers of the restricted items were asked to source their forex requirements from autonomous sources.

Emefiele pointed out that given the remarkable success that had been recorded in stimulating domestic production of goods such as rice, cassava and maize, as a result of the restrictions placed on access to forex for the 41 items, the CBN intends to vigorously ensure that the policy remains in place.

He said speculators in the forex market will be the ultimate losers as the apex bank has enough war chest to sustain the stability in the market.

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Emefiele assured that additional efforts would be made to block any attempts by unscrupulous parties (both individuals and corporates) that intend to find other avenues of accessing forex, in order to import these items into Nigeria.

On development finance, the CBN governor explained that in continued recognition of its role as an agent of development and aimed at ensuring self-sufficiency to reduce Nigeria’s excessive dependence on imports, the CBN invigorated its development finance activities.

“We have maintained a particular focus on supporting farmers, entrepreneurs as well as small and medium scale businesses, through our various intervention programmes such as the Anchor Borrowers Programme, Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending and the National Collateral Registry,” he added.