The company on October 5th gave the President Muhamamdu Buhari-led Federal Government 30 days to do the right thing by giving the requisite support to indigenous manufacturers or else it would relocate its production base to another country.
Umeofia told newsmen on Tuesday that the company has planned relocation to China.
He said the planned downsizing and plant relocation should be completed in six months to nine months.
Umeofia said that the relocation of production plant to China would increase unemployment, tomato waste and the food import bill of the country.
Erisco Foods is an indigenous tomato paste manufacturing company that employs thousands of Nigerians.
“It is saddening and painful that we have started the process of relocating our factory out of the country, thereby forcing us against our wish to create jobs in foreign lands due to the evil and wicked desires of unpatriotic Nigerians who frustrate every effort we have made to create jobs in the country and earn foreign exchange.”
It will be recall that the Wife of the President, Hajiya Aisha Buhari, in February this year inaugurated the company’s N4 billion tomato paste processing plant that can process 450,000 tonnes of tomatoes in Oregun, Lagos State. According to Umeofia, the idea of the new plant was borne out of the need to resolve the glut in the tomato products from farmers, particularly in the northern part of the country, who are losing about 75 per cent of their produce due to the absence of storage or processing facilities.
While disclosing that it will be taking the company about six months to complete move its factories out of Nigeria, Chief Umeofia said “CBN refused to give us approval till date to use our own deposit of USD460, 000.00 generated from our foreign operations, but the same CBN approves Nigeria’s scarce FOREX to other companies to continue to import sub standards products into the country.” He added “CBN refused to give us FOREX to import machineries, machine spare parts and raw materials to be used for processing of Nigeria fresh tomatoes into tomato paste in our Lagos factory.
In addition, CBN refused to give us enough intervention funds after several promises to import agricultural tractors, improved tomato seedlings, fertilizer, and chemicals for our Katsina Project.
Umeofia said it is regrettable that the same CBN approved intervention loan and FOREX to companies mostly owned by foreigners to import finished tomato paste at cheaper rate and other items like frozen fish and other items that can be produced in Nigeria.
“Recently, USD 15.1 million was allocated to an Indian company among others in one bidding at the exchange rate of N280.00 to a dollar and the CBN claimed it was for future contract, while, Erisco Foods is running its big company with FOREX sourced from parallel markets at the exchange rate of over N450.00 to a dollar.””
Chief Umeofia said they expected the government to place a ban on the importation of tomatoes paste into the country as they did in banning importation of cement and fruit juice, but regretted that that was not done. He added that the company with over 2, 000 workers has the capacity to meet all the tomato needs of Nigeria and even export if they produce at full capacity.
“But since inception, we have been producing fewer than 20% because of dumping of substandard products by Indians, Chinese and some unpatriotic Nigerians.”
The Erisco Foods’ boss noted that the tactical supports given by some government agencies to importers of sub-standards tomatoes paste into the country is forcing them to close their factories and join the importers to flood the market with finished goods as they have lost over N3.6 Billion due to dumping of finished products in the past.
“We have over N6billion of finished products not sold due to the activities of nefarious activities of importers and over N13 billion of raw materials in our warehouses. Also, our foreign supplier bills for collection line worth over US$20m were cancelled due to CBN frustration."