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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.

Business

COVID-19: Demand for Second Passport by High Net Worth Individuals Surges 50 Percent

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african union passport

The number of high net worth individuals looking for a second international passport in order to improve their global access rose by 50 percent year-on-year, according to the latest statement from the deVere Group.

The group said national lockdowns, borders and travel restrictions have helped boost enquiries for second passports, citizenships and overseas residencies this year.

deVere Group, an independent financial advisory firm, that manages over 100,000 clients globally said demand for its residency and citizen service skyrocketed in this highly unusual year.

Most of the enquiries were from high net worth individuals from the U.S., India, South Africa, Russia, the Middle East and East Asia “who are seeking alternative options in Europe and the Commonwealth.”

According to Nigel Green, the Founder and CEO of deVere Group, “Previously, a second passport, citizenship or residency were regarded by many as the ultimate luxury item; a status symbol like yachts, supercars and original artwork.

“While this still remains the case, there’s also been a shift due to the pandemic.

“Now, second citizenship or overseas residency are increasingly becoming not just a ‘nice to have accessory’ but a ‘must have.’

“Whether it be for personal reasons, such as to remain with loved ones overseas or be able to visit them, or for business reasons, a growing number of people are seeking ways to secure their freedom of movement as they have faced travel restrictions which are, typically, based on citizenship.”

He continues: “The pandemic has served as a major catalyst for demand which skyrocketed this year. It has focused minds to secure that second passport or elite residency.

“However, the appeal for is broader than just the global Covid-19 crisis.

“Increasingly people prefer the concept of being a global citizen, rather than being solely tied to the country of their birth.

“They too value the many associated benefits including visa-free travel, world-class education, optimal healthcare, political and economic stability, reduced tax liabilities and wider business and career opportunities.”

However, nations have different criteria for granting citizenship, including time spent in the country, the ability to prove the legal source of funds and zero criminal records.

For instance, Portugal’s residency program requires just two weeks every two years of residency to gain the benefits, including the right to live, work, study and open a business there, as well as travel across the 26 countries of Europe’s Schengen area.

“More and more nations are running citizenship-by-investment programs, in which applicants invest an amount of money in a sponsoring country typically in high-end, new-build real estate developments in exchange for permanent residency, citizenship, or both,” affirms James Minns, deVere’s Head of Residency & Citizenship.

“These programmes, which high-net-worth individuals regard as invaluable insurance, are typically based on property investments that start from 250,000 EUR.”

Nigel Green concludes: “These highly unusual times have fuelled the surge in demand for second passports.

“The pandemic has brought into sharp focus what really matters to people: family, freedom and security.”

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Online Shopping Skyrockets Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

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NIBSS

Lagos, Tuesday 30 November 2020 – As we experience the first-ever Black Friday promotional phenomenon under lockdown, the dominance of online shopping platforms has become crystal clear.

To keep track of this development Nielsen Global Connect has conducted extensive research that includes an overarching view of the massive increase in online FMCG  shopping and just how rapidly it evolved over the first six months of lockdown.

Nielsen Connect, Global Intelligence Unit, Executive Director Ailsa Wingfield comments; “Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, online FMCG shopping usage has advanced by up to five years in just six short months. As a result, there has been a rapid increase in online shopping and usage with new users, frequency and preference having skyrocketed.

Preference of online as the most-used channel has also more than doubled.

Evidence of this results from the Nielsen New Shopper Normal Study which was conducted in May 2020 allowing for powerful insight into the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown on consumers, during an unprecedented time in our history.

The Nielsen study found that in terms of new Nigerian FMCG online shoppers, 29% had never shopped online. Sixty-seven per cent recently shopped online during the past week and 12% shopped most often online during the past week versus only 7% pre COVID-19. In terms of Frequency, 23% said they shopped online multiple times a week and 44% shopped once a week.

The best of both worlds

 Nielsen’s consumer and retail measurement evidence therefore clearly shows a massive and ongoing move to online, but it must be pointed out that this is not in isolation when considering the overall shopping journey. In Nigeria, two-thirds of consumers (67%) say they are now using both online and offline channels with fewer exclusive brick & mortar shoppers at 33%.

Wingfield elaborates; “Overall, consumers are shopping and buying in a mixed reality. In many instances, online shopping options are a new addition to their existing store repertoire but most consumers indicate that they will maintain a combination of online and offline – which will lead to the rise of more omnichannel shopping journeys and experiences.”

Interestingly, this adoption is even more pronounced for ‘Constrained Consumers’ – those who have been impacted by job/income loss. These consumers are less likely to be exclusive Brick & Mortar shoppers as Omni shopping is even more important to help them make better and more frugal choices.

Wingfield adds; “The challenge for retailers is that consumers want equivalent experiences regardless of the environment in which they shop. These are categorised by a seamless experience where the retailer’s online, and bricks and mortar offerings, are connected and offer a similar and familiar shopping experience.”

 Still more work to be done

In terms of the remaining obstacles for retailers to overcome and where online needs to work harder, the biggest concern for Nigerian shoppers is delivery which has emerged as the most important factor to get right. 42% of Nigerian consumers stated they wanted same/next-day delivery while 21% said they don’t want to wait when there are no slots available.

When it comes to Price & Promo perceptions, 57% of respondents said online prices had increased, while 22% perceived less online promotion and 17% said online was more expensive. That said, online price perceptions are currently more favourable than offline (brick and mortar) perceptions. They may also improve even further, following the heavy push by retailers of online-only Black Friday and year end seasonal promotions.

 Looking to the future

 Looking at how consumers’ newfound relationship with online shopping will evolve, Wingfield comments; “We saw that ‘necessity catalysts’ such as safety and precaution considerations and the availability of products initially drew consumers online, but there are still several obstacles to overcome. To sustain online FMCG traction, retailers and brands will need to focus on how they can solve consumers’ changing needs by differentiating their offerings in the Omni shopping journey.”

She goes on to suggest; “They will need to solve for overall satisfaction and experiences in the areas of time, convenience, availability and value based on consumers’ altered circumstances to truly differentiate themselves.”

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Rising Operating Costs, Exchange Rates, Service Charge Increased Airfares by 100%

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air peace

Price of air tickets rose by 100 percent across several routes as rising operating costs, high foreign exchange and surged in service charge forced airline operators to raise airfares.

Airlines attributed the increase to a series of price adjustments and the introduction of new fees by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). According to them, airline firms were given special concessions, which will continue to push price up and could hit an average of N100,000 for even the Lagos/Abuja route.

Speaking on the situation, Captain Ado Sanusi, the Managing Director of Aero Contractors, said airline companies could not access forex at the official rate while the FAAN had upped its fees.

He said “We were buying dollars at N360 and it went to N380 but you can’t get it for less than N480.

“We are paying VAT at 7.5 per cent. We are paying 15 per cent duty on our spare parts. The boarding passes, we pay 15 per cent duty on it.

“The passenger service charge has increased by FAAN. So, don’t look at one component but look at the total reason for the increase.

“Yes, there is an increase in demand but it is caused by the lack of aircraft and this lack of aircraft is caused by unavailability of spare parts which is also caused by dollar scarcity.”

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