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Forex Threatens 40,000 Jobs as Food Prices Soar

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Forex Nigeria

The difficulties in getting foreign exchange and the steep fall in the value of the naira are seriously affecting the manufacturing sector, with prices of locally made and imported food items heading northward, IFE ADEDAPO writes

The scarcity of foreign currencies in the country, especially the dollar, which has made it difficult for manufacturers of essential food items to import raw materials into the country, is threatening about 40,000 jobs.

Investigations by our correspondent showed that the high cost of importation due to unprecedented fall in the value of the naira has made importation difficult and expensive, thereby resulting in many factories operating far below their installed capacities.

It was also gathered that as a result of the currency crisis, the prices of essential food items were gradually rising as a direct consequence of the high cost of production and the imported substitutes becoming more expensive.

The naira, which has been taking a beating from the fall in global oil prices since mid-2014, tumbled to 391 against the dollar at the parallel market on Friday and has remained at the Central Bank of Nigeria-pegged 199 to $1 at the interbank market.

On January 11, the central bank stopped the sale of foreign currencies to Bureaux de Change operators as part of measures to reduce the pressure on the nation’s foreign reserves.

Since the announcement was made, the value of naira, which was 283 against the dollar at that time, has been depreciating.

Speaking with our correspondent on the effects of the falling currency on food manufacturers, the Executive Secretary, Association of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employers, Mr. Aderemi Adegboyega, lamented that hundreds of jobs out of the 40,000 workforce in the sector had been lost already and that those still in employment were hanging on by the thread.

He said the business was no longer profitable and firms in the sector were shutting down because they could not afford to pay the salaries of workers, while producing very little.

“We need forex to buy raw materials as a lot of our companies are producing below capacity, which is a big problem. As we are not manufacturing, it means that some of our employees are going to lose their jobs. In our industry alone, we have about 40,000 jobs, and if care is not taken, there will be a lot of loss in terms of the jobs,” Adegboyega warned.

While analysing the precarious situation in the manufacturing and trade sectors, the Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Muda Yusuf, said many organisations were becoming insolvent due to accumulated debts owed foreign suppliers.

Yusuf stated, “Many have slowed down their operations because of lack of forex, and many companies are not able to pay their suppliers abroad; for those who took goods on credit, the situation has created a major credibility problem for them. And because of that, some of them have lost their credit lines.

“Many foreign airlines operating in the country cannot remit proceeds to their home countries. For those who are buying and selling; if they get the money to buy, how are they going to sell? It is a very serious situation.”

Meanwhile, both local and imported food items have become expensive due to the scarcity of dollars and the restrictions placed by the CBN on importers of certain food items from assessing foreign exchange from the official source.

Investigations by our correspondent showed that the prices of packaged water, bread, imported brands of vegetable oil, rice, fish as well as ingredients for making confectioneries had been on a steady rise since the restriction of forex sale was announced in June 2015.

Food retailers at the Ipodo Market, Ikeja, Lagos State, told our correspondent that a carton of ‘Titus’ frozen fish, which sold for N9,000 in June last year, had increased by 33 per cent to N12,000 six months after.

One of the traders, Mrs. Folashade Dasaolu, explained that the price of a carton of croaker fish, being imported from Turkey, had increased by 14 per cent from N14,000 three months ago to N16,000 presently.

“We don’t get as much quantity from our suppliers as we would like to because they have limited stock,” she added.

For imported vegetable oil, the owner of Okikiola Ventures in the same market, Mrs. Abiodun Adefolami, said that a 25-litre container of the product imported from Malaysia was now selling for N8,200 instead of the previous N6,200.

The price of a 50kg bag of rice started a steady ascent from N8,700 in August last year to peak at N10,000 in the middle of November.

Statistics obtained from Novus Agro Nigeria Commodity Index showed that the price of the product started declining when the CBN lifted the ban on rice as part of the items restricted from the official forex market.

The CBN on June 23, 2015 officially stopped the sale of dollars to the importers of 41 items, in its quest to reduce the pressure on the naira as well as preserve the country’s external reserves.

The essential food items included on the list are rice, margarine, palm kernel/palm oil/vegetable oil, meat and processed meat products, vegetable and processed vegetable products, poultry products like chicken, eggs, turkey, and tinned fish in sauce.

A bag of sachet water, which sold for N100 in Lagos in January, now sells for N150, with the manufacturers blaming the high cost of packaging materials for the price increase.

It was gathered that the rise in the price of flour from N6,500 to N7,900 for a 50kg bag; imported fat from N4,500 to N5,200; and sugar from N7,000 to N8,600 per 50kg bag, had made bakers in Lagos to increase the price of a loaf of sliced bread to N250 as against N200 previously.

However, the Chairman, Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria, Lagos chapter, Jacob Adejorin, said despite the rise in cost of raw materials, the price of the popular ‘Agege’ brand of bread had not changed.

Adegboyega explained that some of the manufacturers had embraced the backward integration policy as directed by the Federal Government, but that it would take some time before the expected impact could be felt.

Citing examples of companies that had started backward integration, he said, “Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc has a farm that is called Suntil, where it is growing sugarcane and it will eventually be producing sugar. UAC Foods has farms somewhere where it is rearing chicken. Chi Foods also has farms where it is producing concentrates, but the fact is that all these are not enough for their production capacities.”

According to him, FrieslandCampina WAMCO has gone into partnership with herdsmen in Plateau and other states to train them on the type of cow that will produce the quality of milk the company requires and is offering them financial support.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Afrexim and Asoko Partner to Help List African Companies

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Afreximbank - Investors King

Asoko Insight, Africa’s leading provider of corporate data and engagement services, is pleased to announce a partnership with Africa Export-Import Bank that will help African companies list on its due diligence platform, the MANSA.

Launched by Afrexim in 2018 to counter the cuts in trade finance and investment financial flows to Africa, MANSA aims to be a single source of the primary data required for Customer Due Diligence (CDD) and Know Your Customer (KYC) checks on African entities. The transparency MANSA provides will address key trade-related challenges facing the continent, including the lack of market information, the high cost of doing business in Africa and the challenges around discovering African counterparties.

The corporate information gathered through this KYC platform provides an additional layer of confidence for international financiers and African companies seeking business partners,  unlocking the flow of capital and creating a more transparent operational landscape for trade and investment.

Onboarded as an official data partner for the project, Asoko will host access to the MANSA platform on its Digital Engagement platform through which African companies can register and submit their CDD/KYC information to be listed on the MANSA platform.

Rob Withagen, co-founder and CEO of Asoko Insight, said, “Easing access to African companies for trade and investment opportunities is at the core of Asoko’s work. MANSA is a key tool for facilitating data sharing about members of Africa’s vibrant private sector and we’re pleased to offer a route to it via our Digital Engagement platform.

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HOPE Consortium and Astral Aviation Sign MOU to Enhance Vaccine Distribution Solutions in Africa

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HOPE Consortium - Investors King

As part of its continued commitment to vaccine distribution in Africa, the HOPE Consortium has partnered with Kenya-based cargo airline, Astral Aviation, to offer vaccine distribution solutions to Africa. This highlights the HOPE Consortium’s efforts in reinforcing partnerships that focus on fighting the COVID-19 global pandemic, as well as fulfilling the organisation’s mission as a global logistics facilitator, by aiding in vaccine delivery.

As part of the partnership agreement, both entities will focus on intra-African cooperation to enhance vaccine distribution within the African continent. The HOPE Consortium will utilise Astral Aviation’s comprehensive network, technologies, and market expertise, to support its global objective of facilitating vaccine availability with a specific emphasis on the African continent. The alliance will ensure timely delivery of vaccines and critical supplies to all 54 African nations.

Astral Aviation operates a diverse fleet of 14 freighter aircraft and provides innovative, flexible, and cost-effective UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) integrated drone-based solutions, as well as warehousing solutions to both in-store and remote locations.

This synergetic collaboration with the HOPE Consortium will see Astral Aviation provide capacity for vaccine deliveries on its scheduled and charter freighter network, in addition to world-class drone solutions and systems to Africa, with the purpose of facilitating immunisation programmes.

Commenting on the partnership, Mr. Sanjeev Gadhia, CEO of Astral Aviation said: “We are truly honoured to partner with the HOPE Consortium and participate in the critical distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, based on our track record in performing humanitarian initiatives and vaccine flights within Africa. Astral will add further technological and warehousing solutions for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines from the hub in Abu Dhabi, to all the 54 countries in Africa directly or via its Nairobi Hub, which occupies 9000 m2 of cold-storage facilities.”

It is worth mentioning that Astral has also been selected by UNICEF to perform vaccine flights for COVAX and for the African Union via the African Medical Supplies Platform.

Through this partnership, the HOPE Consortium furthers its end-to-end supply chains required to distribute vaccines from their base in Abu Dhabi to all African countries. The HOPE Consortium has geared its operations to transport millions of critical COVID-19 vaccines to any country in need and thus far has handled over 100 million vaccine doses across 40 countries.

Robert Sutton, Head of Logistics Cluster, Abu Dhabi Ports, said: “Africa has always been a high priority market for the HOPE Consortium, and to that end, we are pleased to join hands with Astral Aviation. With a track record of operating over 20 years within Africa, their expertise provides a new dimension towards achieving our overarching objectives. This partnership reinforces the HOPE Consortium’s aim of creating a sustainable ecosystem, based on our collective global networks, logistics and supply chain capabilities, in order to facilitate vaccine distribution across the world. Our partnership with Astral Aviation is another benchmark towards our commitment to serve every country, region, and locale. We are confident that this partnership will help enhance HOPE Consortium’s efforts in Africa and ensure that no one is left behind in the quest against the pandemic.”

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Konga Partners NIDCOM, Places World-Class Assets at Reach of Nigerians in Diaspora

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Konga

Konga, Nigeria’s leading composite e-commerce giant, has signed a partnership with the Federal Government through the Diaspora Commission to further strengthen the relationship between Nigerians abroad, their relatives and the nation.

To this effect, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Konga and the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) on Tuesday, September 14, 2021, in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Present at the signing ceremony was the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, NIDCOM, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa; Chairman, Zinox Group, Leo Stan Ekeh, Co-CEO, Konga Group, Nick Imudia; Vice President, KongaPay, Isa Aliyushata as well as other senior officials of NIDCOM.

The terms of the MoU will see NIDCOM partner with Konga is offering Nigerians based in overseas locations a credible platform devoid of the potential concerns of fraud and other unscrupulous practices. Consequently, through this synergy, Konga will place its huge resources, extensive reach, world-class assets and credible database at the disposal of millions of Nigerians in the Diaspora in search of a reliable and robust platform to work within the country.

In addition, the partnership will see Konga set up an exclusive Diaspora Marketplace to aid Nigerians abroad gain access to quality Nigerian products and services, while also helping them sell their own items locally. Furthermore, NIDCOM will also leverage Konga TV, a cutting-edge Cloud TV soon to be launched by the e-commerce giant, to reach millions of Nigerians across the globe.

The development is one which the FG believes will ease capital flight, while also boosting the scope of useful foreign exchange earnings through Diaspora returns.

‘‘We are delighted to have signed this partnership with Konga which remains unarguably a world recognized and credible e-commerce leader in Nigeria,’’ disclosed Hon Mrs. Abike Erewa, NIDCOM Executive Chairman. ‘‘Through this initiative, millions of Nigerians will have access to a reliable platform here in Nigeria to guide their investment decisions, while also offering them a chance to empower their loved ones through the numerous opportunities that abound on KongaGroup. We are also confident that this partnership will encourage many Nigerians resident abroad to gain useful knowledge and consider major social investments in Nigeria, a development that will further rub off positively on the economy.”

Also speaking at the event, Ekeh, Chairman of Konga commended the NIDCOM Chairman and her team for their efforts and professionalism in making the partnership a reality. Ekeh, who pioneered e-commerce in Africa through the now-defunct BuyRight Africa Dotcom over 13 years ago, lauded the power of e-commerce in bridging gaps and growing the wealth of nations in the 21stCentury, a role he stated that Konga is eminently positioned to play in view of its huge resources and growth trajectory in Nigeria and beyond. He added that the partnership is expected to cause a change that would be a blessing to Nigerians in the 21st century.

On his part, Imudia, Co-CEO, Konga Group also stressed the many opportunities that abound for Nigerians in the Diaspora through the partnership with NIDCOM.

‘‘The opportunities are huge.

‘‘Many Nigerians abroad can now find credible merchants for their purchases in Nigeria or even set up their own stores on Konga. Also, they can access reliable information before committing funds or while making investment decisions. With Konga, Nigerians abroad can afford to extend support to relatives and their respective communities without stories.

‘‘Put simply, Nigerians abroad can order foodstuffs, medicines, and other products on Konga platforms and get them delivered to their families and friends without stories, no matter the location in Nigeria. All they need do is open a wallet on KongaPay, a Central Bank of Nigeria fully licensed mobile money platform. They can also use the Konga platform to pay school fees, monthly feeding allowances and pay contractors working for them in Nigeria, etc. and receive alerts that their instructions have been carried out with 100% accuracy.’’

The partnership with NIDCOM comes just as Konga recently signed off on another partnership with the Ministry of Youths and Sports Development to empower millions of Nigerians youths through a job and wealth creation scheme known as Konga Jobs (KJ). The initiative targets the employed, under-employed and unemployed Nigerians. Konga also recently entered a strategic partnership with the Edo State Government to launch the Edo Marketplace(EMP) on Konga as a major platform to take SMEs in the state to the global marketplace and to better serve the unreached and under-reached.

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