The head of Nigeria’s Erisco Foods has announced plans to relocate the firm’s tomato paste manufacturing plant from Oregun, Lagos State, to China with the loss of 1,500 staff – in a move blamed on the economic policies of Nigeria’s government.
CEO Eric Umeofia said in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari the decision was due to what he claimed was the refusal of Nigeria’s central bank to allocate foreign currency for the firm to import raw materials, as well as collaboration between government agencies and importers from Asia “to flood the market with substandard paste”, Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper group reported.
Umeofia said the president’s wife, Hajiya Aisha Buhari, formally opened the NGN4bn (US$12.7m) plant last February, with the aim of “resolving the glut in tomato products from farmers, particularly in the northern part of the country, who are losing about 75% of their produce due to the absence of storage or processing facilities”.
However, Umeofia said in his letter: “It is saddening and painful that we have started the process of relocating our factory out of the country, thereby forcing us against our wish to create jobs in foreign lands due to the evil and wicked desires of unpatriotic Nigerians who frustrate every effort we have made to create jobs in the country and earn foreign exchange.”
According to Umeofia, the central bank “refused to give us forex to import machinery, spare parts and raw materials to be used for processing of Nigeria fresh tomatoes into tomato paste [and] refused to give us enough intervention funds after several promises to import agricultural tractors, improved tomato seedlings, fertiliser, and chemicals”.
The CEO said it will take Erisco about six months to complete the move out of Nigeria, but he claimed the central bank has even banned the firm from using its own hard currency deposits of $460,000.
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In August, Umeofia warned Nigeria’s government the company faced challenges to “attaining self-sustainability, especially in tomato production, because of the activities of unscrupulous importers who bring different types of substandard products into the country”.