Indigenous Manufacturers Deserve Encouragement From Govt – Erisco Foods Boss

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Chief Eric Umeofia, President/CEO Erisco Foods Limited
Chief Eric Umeofia, President/CEO Erisco Foods Limited

By Ayomide Oriade

The federal government must begin to give indigenous manufacturers the needed attention and support for the country to really achieve it transformational agenda. Most industrialized nations of the world have thrived on this policy and it is high time Nigeria started putting its talk into action and build on its indigenous entrepreneurial strength.

This issue came to the fore during a media facility tour led by the President and CEO of Erisco Foods Limited, Chief Eric Umeofia, at theOregun factory of the company, in Ikeja, Lagos state. Chief Umeofia lamented the unfavourable condition indigenous manufacturers are being subjected to by the different tiers of government in general. He noted that the Erisco Foods vision is to be one of the largest indigenous Nigerian manufacturers of food products globally while its mission is to produce and package quality products for everyday use.

Chief Umeofia said that Erisco Foods’ initial capacity of 240, 000 metric tonnes per annum factory in Oregun, Lagos state, is the first of its kind and largest tomato factory in Africa. Apart from producing and packaging our own range of products in tins and sachets, our production capacity is providing genuine importers, packagers and bulk traders of tomato paste the opportunity to start getting their products processed and packaged right here in Nigeria without the pains of procuring scarce foreign exchange to import packaged tomato paste from Europe and Asia.

Erisco Foods’ investments in the manufacturing sector is in full support President Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda under the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) and the National Enterprise Development Programme (NEDP) which are all geared towards enhancing Nigeria’s lofty industrialization goals. We will generate direct and indirect employment of over 50,000 within the next 3 years and with the right policies the industry will ultimately generate millions of jobs.

The Erisco Foods’ initiative according to Chief Umeofia will save the nation millions of hard-earned foreign exchange if the federal government puts in place policies and legislation that will discourage dumping of packaged tomato products from Asia some of whose governments give their nationals incentives to export such excess products into countries like Nigeria at the risk of local producers like us stock-piling tonnes of unsold inventory.

He said several ideas and indigenous innovation that could lift the country’s economic situation are not being supported by the government; instead they keep hunting for taxes and other dues. According to him, this attitude is doing a lot of harm to our economy and government must realize that manufacturing is not normal trading where you buy things for 2 naira and sell them for 3 Naira, as some simple policies and lack of encouragement can collapse a big company.

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FACTORY TOUR: R-L: Chief Eric Umeofia, President / CEO of Erisco Foods Limited making a point during the special media tour of the company’s factory in Oregun, Ikeja, Lagos on August 13, 2014. While Mr. Nnanke Harry Willie CEO of HQSC Limited looks on.

Chief Umeofia urged the government to come up with policies to support indigenous manufacturers as the only thing they are asking for is an environment that will favour them as truly Nigerian brands.

He said “We only hear of some foreign investors bringing billions of Dollars into Nigeria but it is not reflecting. And we that are into the practical economy that is showing prospects are not being encouraged. The plant here is working bellow 15% capacity now because we don’t have enough tomatoes to meet the demand. This 110 million dollars investment can create 50,000 both in the factory and in the farm. If only the government can give a favourable policy; which means keeping the foreigners at bay!

“When we produce, the people say they want foreign goods and government has said they don’t want to ban again inorder not to truncate the ties with neighbouring countries and vitiate existing world trade and Ecowas protocols but how would you hold onto a policy at the detriment of your own people? I want to believe that governments have good intentions but the implementation has not been good.

“The honorable Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, was here on a working visit on 22nd June and I told him and he promised to address some of the issues that we raised. But if the government is not ready to come in, I may be forced to shut down because I have lost about 10 million dollars here because very carton of tomato I sell here, I subsidise a minimum of 1 dollar.

The goal of Nigeria is to be an industrial nation and if the indigenous manufacturing companies are not allowed to drive that, Chief Umeofia believes that nothing will change in the next 50 years. According to him, it is only the money generated and invested here, that is our complete money. He further explained that manufacturing of tomato paste here in Nigeria by his company provides the most healthy product for consumers and they have no reason to keep opting for foreign products.

“Most foreign tomato products are stacked into containers on the high sea and sometimes they may get contaminated. The nutrients will have diminished as well. Producing fresh tomato paste here is a big advantage to the health of Nigerians. Also, there are lots of controlled things you don’t need to put in tomato. Foreigners can put it because we don’t control them and once it is mixed, it takes a lot of laboratory tests to detect. But here, my conscience will not allow me, not to talk of NAFDAC. We don’t also include preservatives; we invested more in heating and cooling system. No addition of chemicals; RIC-GIKO is pure tomato and it can last for two years,” he said.

 

He added that the company “maintains world-best standard food practice “and that is why we invited the Standard Organization of Nigeria and even NAFDAC ourselves. They told us that only few companies can do that. We do this because we want to maintain world standard that nobody can fault.”

Pointing out other areas that the government can help the tomato paste factory, Chief Umeofia said our weather is favourable for tomatoes more than most other countries that plant once a year while we can plant more than that, yet they are the once importing into our country.

The promoters of Erisco Foods believe that Nigeria has the capacity to provide our selves basic food supplies such as tomato products and even generate excess for exportation to other countries if the government compels positive backward integration agenda in the tomato business as it did in cement. Besides, Nigerians will receive better nutrition and stay healthier if we eat our own home grown food products.

We therefore call on governments at the federal and state levels to encourage local manufacturers, especially in the food sector by introducing appropriate policies and tariff structure to encourage local production and discourage indiscriminate imports into the country and engender food security for Nigerians, by Nigerians.

“When we produce, the people say they want foreign goods and government has said they don’t want to ban again in order not to truncate the ties with neighbouring countries, but how would you hold on to a policy at the detriment of your own people? I want to believe that governments have good intentions but the implementation has not been good.

The goal of Nigeria is to be an industrial nation and if the indigenous manufacturing companies are not allowed to drive that, Chief Umeofia believes that nothing will change in the next 50 years. According to him, it is only the money generated and invested here, that is our complete money.

For us to generate the whole tomatoes locally, we need like 5000 hectares. In China, Mexico, and Italy, this is strictly government business and they give a lot of subsidy. This is where government comes in. they have to give concessions or they participate as well. “This facility will hold 650, but our vision is to become the biggest tomato paste exporter and we will soon to move to Ibese; that is if the government brings a good policy.”

The RIC-GOKO Range of Tomato past
The RIC-GOKO Range of Tomato paste
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