Labour calls for reduction of tomato concentrate tariff

…Says 50% too high for common man

Stories by Bimbola Oyesola, 08033246177

Organised Labour has warned that the 50 per cent tariff on tomato concentrate would further make the product inaccessible to the common man in Nigeria.

It has called on the Federal Government to reduce the tariff to between 5 and 10 per cent, to make the product affordable to Nigerians.

President of the National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), Lateef Oyelekan, while commending the Federal Government for lifting restrictions on the importation of tomato concentrate, which is the raw material for making of tomato paste, he said the tariff was on the high side.

Tomato concentrate was among the 41 items that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) denied foreign exchange (forex), in a bid to save hard currency and encourage backward integration.

The move, however, led to the closure of many Nigerian companies manufacturing tomato paste.

The NUFBTE president, who is also the vice president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), lamented that over 100,000 jobs were lost in the sector and nearly all the companies shut down as the backward integration policy drive of the federal government came suddenly.

He noted that it was the unbearable situation that forced the union to cry out to the Minister of Labour, Sen. Chris Ngige, to save the tomato paste manufacturing sector from total collapse, bearing in mind the number of job losses that would be recorded.

He said, “We want to thank the federal government, because last year was quite terrible for our sector. The forex scarcity, restriction of forex on some raw materials, terribly affect our sector.

“We took it as a main project to appeal to the federal government on some of these banned items in our sector, mostly the tomato paste concentrate. Unfortunately, all the companies in the sector had shut down.

“However, through the intervention of the Minister of Labour, the federal government has lifted the ban on tomato concentrate and put 50 per cent tariff on it.”

Oyelekan insisted that, as good as the lifting of the ban sounds, the 50 per cent tariff was high and would affect production cost.

“The final product with that tariff would be too exorbitant, beyond the reach of consumers and at the end would not be profitable for the manufacturers either,” he opined.

He stated further that, “We are appealing to the federal government to reduce the tariff to enable Nigerians afford the finished products. We sincerely commend the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, for his role in this. What happened to our sector was an eyesore, in the past one year.”

The labour leader advised government as an institution to listen to Nigerians and be sensitive to their plight.

He reasoned that Nigerians could come up with suggestions that could bail out the economy, hence government must be responsive.

He said, “In our sector, we want government to know that there is no justification for allowing any product under food and beverages into the country. Because the food sector can provide more than enough for the country.

“As such, we want government to place ban on all importation of beverages, confectioneries coming into Nigeria. Also, in the area of furniture, Nigeria has timber, so there is no need for importation of substandard doors into the country. We should encourage local production by patronising our locally-manufactured doors, through this more jobs would be created.

“Government should ban importation of furniture into the country. If you see the locally-produced chairs in places like Kano, they are very beautiful, but the patronage is low due to importation.”

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