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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.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Business

Boeing to Deliver 50 737 MAX Planes to British Airways

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American Airlines Boeing

International Airlines Group (IAG), the owner of British Airways, on Thursday said it has agreed to purchase 50 Boeing 737 MAX planes. The transaction estimated at $6.25 billion includes a substantial discount and is expected to be delivered between 2023 and 2027, according to a statement issued by the company.

In the statement seen by Investors King, Luis Gallego, the Chief Executive of IAG, said “The addition of new Boeing 737s is an important part of IAG’s short-haul fleet renewal.”  

“The deal falls short of a blockbuster non-binding commitment for 200 737 MAX jets placed under former chief executive Willie Walsh at the Paris Airshow 2019 that was a welcome lifeline to Boeing when the model was grounded after two fatal crashes.

“But the firm 737 MAX 10 order from a top-tier customer is an important signal to the market at a time when Boeing faces an increasingly high-stakes battle to win certification of the largest MAX variant before a new safety standard on cockpit alerts takes effect at year-end.”

Boeing’s financial health rests on the resumption of deliveries of 787 Dreamliners and clearing MAX inventories, company executives and analysts have said.

Former IAG’s Chief Financial Officer, Steve Gunning revealed to analysts in November that the airline group would need some additional short-haul aircraft towards 2024 or 2025 and hinted that any order would include the 737 MAX.

IAG, owner of Ireland’s Aer Lingus and Spain’s Iberia and Vueling in addition to British Airways, also has a further 100 purchase options as part of the deal, which is subject to shareholder approval.

IAG is one of the world’s largest airline groups, with a fleet of 531 aircraft. Before the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic it operated to 279 destinations and carried around 118 million passengers each year.

It is a Spanish registered company with shares traded on the London Stock Exchange and Spanish Stock Exchanges.

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Business

CISLAC Campaigns For Tobacco Tax Hike

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British American Tobacco

The Federal Ministry of Health, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has called for a campaign to raise tobacco tax. The aim of this advocacy is to generate income for the health sector and save the lives of Nigerians.

Executive Director, CISLAC, Mr Auwal Rafsanjani said the measure would provide Nigeria with a win-win situation by lowering tobacco product affordability while generating income for development funds. He said that the detrimental effects of tobacco usage had prompted countries such as Nigeria to enact tobacco control measures to reduce tobacco consumption and cost.

“Excise taxes are the most effective tax measure for promoting health because they change the price of a harmful product relative to other goods and can be easily increased over time. Consumption is reduced best with taxes based on specific taxes on unhealthy products such as sticks and packs of cigarettes.

“Closely linked to the issue of tobacco taxation as a control tool, is the issue of safeguarding population health. It is not news, however, that the state of health care delivery in Nigeria remained very abysmal while the world intensified efforts to attain the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

Recall that Investors King had earlier reported the World Bank’s call to the Federal Government of Nigeria, urging the government to impose special taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and beverages that are highly sweetened in order to improve primary healthcare conditions in the country.

Investors King gathered that, Shubham Chaudhuri, the Country Director for Nigeria in the World Bank Group, said that an improvement in healthcare in Nigeria will come by taxing the things that are “killing us.” He said that the economic rationale for the action is quite strong if lives are to be saved and a healthier Nigeria achieved.

According to Rafsanjani, African nations convened in April 2001 to address health-care finance issues, which are one of the primary determinants of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), and decided to set aside 15% of their budget for health.

“As the country defaults on budgeting effectively for health, countries of the world are adopting innovative approach to mobilise resources for health financing which is adopting tobacco taxes as an alternative strategy”, he noted.

The study, according to Rafsanjani, was commissioned to investigate the potential of tobacco taxation as a form of income for Nigerian health financing.

He explained that the study’s goal was to give scientific information to help policymakers formulate better policies as Nigeria battled to close the gap in health funding.

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Merger and Acquisition

Access Holdings Plc to Acquire Majority Stake in First Guarantee Pension Limited

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Herbert Wigwe - Investors King

Access Holdings Plc has agreed with First Guarantee Pension Limited to acquire a majority stake in the company in its drive to transform from a narrow banking business into a financial service company.

The leading financial institution stated in a press release obtained by Investors King on Thursday.

According to Access Bank, the transaction is in line with its strategy to evolve into a full-blown financial services company and gain relevant market share across Africa, global monetary centres and beyond banking verticals.

Speaking on the firm’s push to change the banking landscape, Dr. Herbert Wigwe, Group Chief Executive Officer, Access Corporation said “This transaction is a natural evolution for us. Over the last 20 years, we set our sights on and delivered ambitious plans to transform the African financial services landscape focusing on banking and have created the African leading Bank and largest bank by customer base.

“This large customer base both on the wholesale and retail segments makes the pension business a natural fit for the Corporation given its objective of ecosystem optimisation. We will leverage our well-established culture of strong corporate governance, risk management, cutting-edge technology, and digital capabilities to deliver high standards of professionalism in the management of pension assets to the benefit of our stakeholders.”

The firm added that the National Pension Commission and the Central Bank of Nigeria have given their no objection to the transaction.

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