President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki has ruled out the possibility of reversing the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) policy excluding some imported goods and services from the list of items valid for forex in the Nigerian Foreign Exchange Market.
Saraki, while responding to a request by the Tomato Sub-Sectoral Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), seeking his intervention to lift the exemption by the CBN on certain imported goods, said based on the present economic realities, difficult decisions are necessary be taken to overcome the challenges.
The Senate President, who addressed the tomato paste producers when they paid him a courtesy visit in Abuja, said: "It is high time we start telling ourselves the home truth as a nation, we are where we are because of our refusal to take hard decisions.
"As a country, we have to chart a new way different from the past, and that path is going into manufacturing as we cannot continue to remain an import dependent country," he said.
While challenging the tomato paste producers to focus more on how to be full fledged manufacturers of the product using local raw materials, Saraki expressed surprise that in spite of the high level of local cultivation of tomatoes, the producers were still importing the Triple Concentrate used in the production of tomato paste, which he said can be produced locally by raising the production level of tomatoes in the country.
"What stops us from producing the tomato to the level of achieving the High Concentrate? You have to be serious in the area of massive investment and research in the sector for government to consider any concession for you," Saraki said.
Earlier, the leader of the group, Mr. Femi Gbadegun said though they were not against the CBN's policy restricting forex to some imported items but that they needed time to raise the level of tomato production in the country to eliminate the need for importation.
Gbadegun lamented that the policy had adversely affected the operations of the members of the association.