The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) says its decision to restrict forex for the importation of milk has no political undertone.
In a statement released in Abuja on Friday, the apex bank said it offered milk importers low-interest loans to begin local production since 2016 but the offer was treated with “imperial contempt”.
In a statement signed by Isaac Okorafor, its director of corporate communications, CBN said it is possible to produce milk locally in Nigeria adding that the loans are still available to interested manufacturers.
In a tweet on Friday, Oby Ezekwesili, former minister of education, inferred that the policy is “punishment” for rejecting RUGA.
The federal government had proposed and subsequently suspended a policy that would allow pastoral farmers to have settlements in states across the country to raise cattle.
In response, the CBN said: “Nigeria and the welfare of all Nigerians come first in all our policy considerations.
“Our focus remains ensuring forex savings, job creation and investments in the local production of milk.
“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.
“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, like 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.”
Acknowledging that the policy could hurt some business interests, the CBN urged Nigerians to restrict the blackmail tactics of individuals who have vested interests in milk importation.