In order to encourage local milk production and boost the economy, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said it will soon implement forex restriction on milk importation as the country can be self-sufficient in that area.
The apex bank governor, Godwin Emefiele made this known while briefing newsmen at the July edition of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting which was recently held in Abuja.
Emefiele noted that the backward integration from the milk importers in Nigeria has become inevitable and might not only impact local production of milk but also be a panacea to the present herders/farmers conflicts.
The Central Bank also promised to provide loan for anyone willing to ranch cattle and produce milk in Nigeria.
“We believe that milk is one of those products that can be produced in Nigeria today. We have seen the importation of milk in Nigeria for over 60 years,” he said, adding that FrieslandCampina and West African Milk, the foremost milk importers have done so for over 60 years.
“Today the import bill for milk annually stands at between $1.2bn and $1.5bn…Given that it is a product that we can produce in the country, we can’t continue to import milk,” the apex bank governor emphasized.
“Let’s ask ourselves the question, what does it take to produce milk? Get a cow, give it lots of water and food, position the cow in a place without it roaming around, and milk it. The reason our cows can’t produce enough milk is that they roam around. They don’t have enough water to drink and consume whatever they find. As they roam from one place to another, they destroy farms and farm produce and this leads to clashes,” he explained.
The CBN governor explained further that, “about three and half years ago when the restriction of forex policy started, we considered including milk in the list of items that should be banned from forex but we conjectured that based on the kind of sentiments, we needed to be careful.”
“At that time, we called in the management of WAMCO, the oldest milk importer in Nigeria; we held at least three meetings with them. We told them milk would have been restricted from forex but we stepped it down. We encouraged them to backward integrate and begin the process of developing milk in Nigeria,” he said, adding that that hasn’t happened after over three years.
Meanwhile, the CBN has denied rumors making rounds that the apex bank plans to ban the importation of milk, saying the Central Bank has no power to do so.
The CBN was under heavy criticism as bodies like Lagos Chamber of Commerce and The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria said they were not consulted.
In his response, the CBN Governor said, “Being an apolitical organization, we (CBN) do not wish to be dragged into politics. Our focus remains to ensure FOREX savings, job creation and investments in the local production of milk,” the CBN statement said.