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Despite forex restrictions, N27bn used to import milk in Q1

Despite the federal government’s moves to ensure self-sufficiency in the production of milk and placing restrictions on access to foreign exchange (forex) for milk importation,…

Despite the federal government’s moves to ensure self-sufficiency in the production of milk and placing restrictions on access to foreign exchange (forex) for milk importation, N27,664 billion was used to import the commodity, a report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has shown.

The report titled: “Foreign Trade Statistics”, noted that milk was imported from four countries.

The commodity, which is labelled “milk preparations containing vegetable fats/oils, powdered/granular, packings” indicated that the bulk of it was purchased from Ireland at N16.1bn, followed by Malaysia at N5.5bn, Germany at N4.8bn and France at N1bn.

Even though the figure was a N4bn reduction from what was bought in Q4 2021, the reduction is not enough for the federal government to achieve its aim of banning the importation of the commodity this year.

Recall that a former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, in 2020, stated that the federal government was set to ban milk importation by 2022 due to efforts put in place by the ministry for availability of resources for local production.

He added that the move would be actualised through the Agro Processing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support Project (APPEALS) that would lead to a N600bn loan support to farmers across the country.

He pointed out that with over 25 million cows available in the country, five million litres could be produced per day to jettison importation.

His comments followed the addition of milk into the list of items that would no longer have access to the official exchange rate by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), with the exemption of six companies, FrieslandCampina WAPCO Nigeria, Chi Limited, TG Arla Dairy Products Limited, Promasidor Nigeria, Nestle Nigeria and Integrated Dairies Limited.

The CBN had justified the move as a way to stop the use of its scarce foreign exchange to bring in the product from foreign countries when it could fund the sector for local production that would engender job opportunities in the country.

It explained that, “About three years ago we began a policy to encourage backward integration to conserve foreign exchange and create jobs for our people. Included in this policy package was the introduction of the highly successful policy which restricted the sale of forex from the Nigerian foreign exchange market for the importation of some 43 items goods that could be produced in Nigeria.

“Arising from the success of the restriction policy, we approached some milk importers, as we did for rice, tomato and starch, and asked them to take advantage of CBN’s low-interest loans to begin local milk production instead of relying endlessly on imports.

“Today, although there have been some successful attempts at producing milk locally, the vast majority of the importers still treat this national aspiration with imperial contempt.”

However, interest groups in the manufacturing sector kicked against the move, which they said would lead to inflation as the country was still struggling for self-sufficiency in food production.