The Central Bank of Nigeria has explained that its decision to restrain importers of milk from the interbank foreign exchange market will encourage investment in local milk production, create jobs and grow the economy.
The Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Isaac Okorafor, who said this on Friday, added that the policy did not mean importation of milk had been banned.
He said, “For the avoidance of doubt, milk importation is not banned. Indeed, the CBN has no such power. All we will do is to restrict sale of forex for the importation of milk from the Nigerian foreign exchange market.
“We wish to reiterate that we remain ready and able to provide the needed finance to enable investors who genuinely want to engage in milk production.”
According to him, the country has been heavily dependent on imported milk for over 60 years, stressing that the action has serious implications on national food security, especially since it is possible to breed the cows producing milk in Nigeria.
Okorafor said, “We therefore wish to once again reiterate our policy case as it relates to the planned restriction of access to the Nigerian foreign exchange market by importers of milk.
“Nigeria and the welfare of all Nigerians come first in all our policy considerations. Being an apolitical organisation, we do not wish to be dragged into politics. Our focus remains ensuring forex savings, job creation and investments in the local production of milk.”
He recalled that about three years ago, the CBN began a policy to encourage backward integration to conserve foreign exchange and create jobs.
Part of the package was the introduction of the policy preventing the sale of forex to 43 items/goods that could be produced in Nigeria, he said.
Arising from the success of the restriction policy, he said, the CBN approached some milk importers, like it did for rice, tomato and starch and asked them to take advantage of the CBN’s low-interest loans to begin local milk production.
Okorafor noted that although there had been some successful attempts at producing milk locally, the vast majority of the importers still treated it with contempt.