Nigerians consume N62.8b French fries yearly
• Import blamed on low investment in potato processing
• Experts seek sustainability in agribusiness
Dollar scarcity, occasioned by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), flexible exchange (forex) rate policy, may have saved the country about $45 million or N14.1 billion at N314 to $1 yearly capital flight used for importing French fries. However, operators put the figure at $200million or N62.8billion.
The forex policy has made it difficult for fast foods operators and super markets to continue with the importation of French fries, which Nigerians consume with relish.
French fries are finger chips made from potatoes, a crop that is widely grown in many parts of the country.
To underscore the importance of this amount saved from capital flight, of the N6.1 trillion National Budget, the allocation to agriculture, which the Federal Government is pushing to spearhead its economic diversification programme, is only a little above N29.75billion. This means that Nigeria’s importation of French fries is about 67 per cent higher than the total spent on agriculture for the whole year.
The development comes as industry experts said Nigeria and the rest of Africa may continue to falter in employment generation, empowerment, economic growth and other opportunities in agribusiness, if sustainable development is not attained in the sector.
The Co-founder, Vicampro, an organisation pushing for food security in Nigeria, Michael Agbogo, disclosed that Nigerians consume about 120 tonnes of French fries daily, even as the whole of West Africa region lacks real food processors.
According to him, “Nigeria imports about $200 million worth of French fries annually,” adding that directing investment to the components of the value chain will serve both the local and regional markets.
“Currently, demand stands at 120 tonnes per day. Now that import has become very difficult due to the exchange rate, fast foods such as KFC no longer sell the product for this reason,” he added.
Indeed, a tonne of French fries sells at the international market for between $800 and $1000, thus if Nigerians consume about 120 tonnes of French fries daily according to demand estimates from operators, the country may have saved at least $43.8 million in forex, a situation that may have affected consumption and made organisations to look inward.
According to the operators, low investment in agro processing has aided dependence on imported fries in a country that is regarded as the leading producer of Irish potato in sub-Saharan Africa.
In an era when the Federal Government is trying to boost the local production of agriculture produce and exports, forex scarcity may well turn out to be a blessing in disguise, as Nigerians can now look inwards to locally made chips.
Nigeria is a leading producer of Irish potatoes in sub-Saharan Africa with Plateau State producing about 200,000 metric tonnes of Irish potatoes yearly .The importation of French fries attracts 20 per cent tariff and five per cent value added tax from the Federal Government.
Industry experts, who gathered at “The Business of Agriculture Conference,” organised by Vicampro in Lagos said the country could only achieve desired growth in the sector if government identifies key stakeholders, defines their roles and holds them accountable.
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