WTO to mediate as EU reports Nigeria over dairy products

Nigeria’s attempt to diversify her sources of revenue and create massive employment through the development of its dairy industry has drawn the ire of the European Union (EU), which has forwarded a petition to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

About two years ago, the Central Bank of Nigeria announced a special intervention fund for the dairy industry and warned it will stop allocating foreign exchange to companies that failed to begin a backward integration programme to import milk and other daily products.

Apparently unwilling to set up dairy farms in Nigeria that will lead to manufacturing, at least one of the companies reported to the EU, which then reported Nigeria to the WTO.

This development came to the fore on Tuesday when WTO Director-General, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala visited Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele in Abuja.

Emefiele, however, explained that the decision was not unilaterally made by CBN but prompted and endorsed by a meeting of major dairy importing companies at a meeting with CBN.

“They asked what would be the sanction against companies that refused to buy into our backward integration plan.

“At that meeting, we took a decision that those who are not embracing our own backward integration programme in dairy should be restricted. It was not a unilateral decision by the CBN.

“It is the duty of us in the monetary authority to push operators and endure those right things are done for the good of Nigeria and Nigerians.”

According to Emefiele, COVID-19 pandemic taught the lesson that countries must learn not to rely on others for the essential needs of their citizens.

“COVID-19 enabled awareness as to how countries that were dependent on others suffered. With covid, those who were supposed to be exporting food and drugs held back their goods.

“Nigeria being a big market with so much human and material resources should be able to do something in shielding its own people by ensuring that it provided basic needs for citizens so it will not be heavily dependent upon others.”

He explained that with youth constituting 60 per cent of the country’s population and most of them unemployed, there is a need to give a chance to local industries to grow, create jobs.

“The unemployment rate is high. We have a responsibility to create an enabling environment for them to live a gainful life.”

While lamenting that many multinational pharmaceutical companies have closed shop in Nigeria due to inadequate infrastructure and other issues, Emefiele assured the WTO boss of Nigeria’s readiness to do business with the world and that CBN was encouraging the establishment of manufacturing companies to produce drugs locally.

Responding, Okonjo-Iweala said, “WTO is completely for Nigeria developing her own capacity. We must do it to create jobs. We cannot be exporting jobs.

“The only difference I may have with you is the approach. You must learn to use WTO’s trade remedies to help Nigeria develop its own industry and capacity. I am completely with you. It is just a question of how.

“You talked about protecting our industries. WTO has what it calls trade remedies, which can help us without banning things to be able to protect our industries against dumping and cheap imports. She challenged officials to ask why pharmaceutical companies closed shop in Nigeria?

“What are we doing to ensure that this doesn’t happen? What are we doing to see that our own domestic pharmaceutical manufacturers have the appropriate environment they need?

“We have now seen what happens when there is a pandemic and you don’t have production capacity for vaccines. You just have to wait when there is supply scarcity. We now have to establish the capacity in preparation for the next pandemic.”


WTO to mediate as EU reports Nigeria over dairy products

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WTO to mediate as EU reports Nigeria over dairy products

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