The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Friday said it had not banned the importation of milk into the country, but only restricted foreign exchange allocation for its importation into the country.
The CBN, in the midst of a public outcry by some interest groups.
“There is neither a plan nor a decision to ban the importation of milk into the country,” the apex bank said., stating that it had no legal power to take such action.
The clarification followed last Tuesday’s announcement by the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, that there was no going back on its planned policy to restrict forex allocation to importers of milk.
At the end of the Monetary Policy Committee meeting for July, Emefiele said the CBN was determined to go ahead with the policy to help conserve between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion the country spends on the importation of milk every year.
Several stakeholders and interest groups have, however, kicked against the CBN plan.
If the policy comes to stay, milk will become the 44th item to be added by the CBN to the list of commodities whose importation will be restricted from accessing forex at the official rate.
Despite the various criticisms, CBN said it was not interested in playing politics with the proposed policy. Rather, it said, Nigeria and the welfare of all Nigerians had always come first in all its policy considerations.
“Being an apolitical organisation, 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.
The CBN described the reactions by the interest groups to the planned policy ”as an attempt to mislead the general public by misrepresenting its case for investments in local milk production”.
It said while it was aware that some of its policies may hurt business interests, ”Nigerians should be allowed to have the buy-in and intense interest in the policies of the CBN”.
The CBN statement reads: “The national food security implications of this can easily be imagined, particularly, when it is technically and commercially possible to breed the cows that produce milk in Nigeria.
“About three years ago, we began a policy to encourage backward integration to conserve foreign exchange and create jobs for our people.
“Included in this policy package was the introduction of the highly successful policy which restricted the sale of FOREX from the Nigerian foreign exchange market for the importation of some 43 items goods that could be produced in Nigeria.
“Arising from the success of the restriction policy, we approached some milk importers, as we did for rice, tomato, and starch and asked them to take advantage of CBN’s low-interest loans to begin local milk production instead of relying endlessly on milk imports.
“Today, although there have been some successful attempts at producing milk locally, the vast majority of the importers still treat this national aspiration with imperial contempt.”
“For the avoidance of doubt, milk importation is not banned. Indeed, the CBN has no such power. All we will do is to restrict the 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.
“The ongoing resort to blackmail and undue politicisation through the use of social media attacks can only serve to strengthen our resolve to wean our country from the clutches of powerful and highly influential traders and dealers who have kept the masses of our people hostage to foreign consumption and condemned our youths to perpetual unemployment.
“We call on Nigerians to enlist in this vanguard to take our economy back from vested interests, make our country a productive economy and create jobs for our teeming youths,” the CBN said.