Obasanjo chairs the Zero Hunger Initiative

· Says Nigeria will be successful in agribusiness

FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Tuesday, said that Nigeria will soon be successful in its agribusiness drive.

Obasanjo ,who also chaired the Zero Hunger Strategic Committee, said that some committees, have been inaugurated and headed  by  some ministers and governors to achieve this aim.

Addressing journalists during a meeting of the Zero Hunger Strategic Committee,  Obasanjo said: “We had the first meeting in the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan and we broke into nine sub-committees to look at the aspects of what we have to do, for instance, where we are now, there is a sub-committee to do that, research and innovation, the needs of producers, processing and marketing.

“What we have done is that we have sub-committee to submit a report which they did, we put the report together and what we have been doing today is to take each sub -committee report and open the report for discussion.”

The former president said the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, headed a sub-committee as well as the Minister of Health, the governors of Sokoto and Ebonyi states.

“So, what we believe we will do in this meeting is to synthesise these committee reports, see where they overlap, where they need to be fine tuned and then ,we will have a final report  and  the final meeting that will look at what will be the final outcome of our report. The hope is that Nigeria wil be an agribusiness success”, he added.

Meanwhile, a member of the Nigerian Zero Hunger Strategic Committee, Sani Dangote,   has  said that the reason why the tomato paste factory in Kano was shut down was as a result of continued importation of tomato paste into the country.

He said if some of the companies that import tomato paste from China can patronise locally manufactured tomato paste, it will aid production locally and put their factory back to production.

“The problem is because there is still a lot of imports coming in, even though, the Central Bank of Nigeria  (CBN)officially said it is not giving any import duty to bring in but other countries like China, had dropped their price value more than 50 per cent to ensure that, even though, there is devaluation of Naira, they will still be able to sell to those who want to buy through the parallel market.”

“So, as at today, government duty is so low, it is only  five per cent, so, with that low duty plus China dropping their price to more than 50 per cent to less than about $700, it means you can even buy dollars at N500 and import tomato paste and they sell, and if you check the price they are selling, they are selling 70gram to about N50, by the time you multiply this value, they are selling as at today over $2000 to $3000 equivalent per ton when they are buying it less than $700, so the margin is high.

“Unless government does something, there is no way we can pay local farmers who has no capacity compared to a Chinese farmer, a farmer here gets about 12 tonnes per hectare, while a Chinese farmer gets over 100 tonnes per hectare, he is supported by his government and other supports”.

He said they have been talking to the Nigerian government for the past one year on the issue, but up till now, there is no peculiar policy where they are heading.

He also said that the Minister of Industry have brought the importers and and processors to the table to find the common ground.

“There is no way you can find common ground when someone’s business is about import why someone business is about local production, so the clear government decision is what is hampering the situation and unfortunately, we are right now in the month where farmers will have to start planting”, he noted.

When asked if the factory had approached the CBN, Dangote said “CBN is implementing what it has put in place, even at current rate of N170, it is still viable to import from China at less than $700 while you can sell it at almost $2000 equivalent to Naira, there is no reason why someone will go and do a backup integration.

“We are not looking for forex, we are only saying government should put a policy where we are producing tomato concentrate for a company that have packaging plan to buy, we are not doing retail, we are only doing industrial packaging.

“So, those industries which are over 30 of them in Nigeria that are importing should stop importing and buy from the local tomato so they can now put it in small tin and sachets and sell.