The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has reported that wheat and sugar would soon be on the list of items that are not valid for foreign exchange in order to save further depletion of foreign reserves.
Mr Godwin Emefiele, governor of CBN, said on Thursday that the apex bank was interested in the project, adding that between $600 million and $1 billion is spent annually on the importation of sugar.
Emefiele, who spoke during a facility tour of the Dangote Integrated Sugar complex in Tunga, Awe Local Government Area of Nasarawa State pledged support for the $500 million project, which is expected to commence production by 2023.
He said in line with the pronouncement of the president on local food production and self- sufficiency, the sugar complex deserved government’s support.
Emefiele assured Dangote that CBN would provide forex for the importation of equipment for the project.
On the planned import restrictions, he said: “And let me say this; we are looking at sugar and we are looking at wheat. We started a programme on milk about two years ago and eventually these products will come onto our FX restriction list.
“We just want to see to what extent we see the traction that is coming from those currently importing those items. We are putting their feet on fire to say we must all work together to produce these goods in Nigeria rather than import them”.
On how much the CBN could commit to the sugar project, Emefiele said: “We have not made up our mind but as you heard from Dangote, it’s a project of about $500 million.
“And if you convert that in naira, you know what that is. I know he’s going to commit some equities to it. From there we will determine the shortfall and we will come in through intervention through the banks.
“Of course, foreign currency will be provided as long as it is for importation of equipment for the project through the banks for whatever loans required.
“And we will gradually begin to restrict allocation of FX to those who want to import sugar until we achive these results.”
Emefiele thanked Dangote for supporting the government’s backward integration programme.
He described the 60,000-hectare sugar complex as a big project that is unprecedented.
He said: “This is four to five times bigger than the sugar project Buhari commission in Niger State two years ago.”
He stated that the factory would create jobs and increase revenue for the state as well as boost its economic viability.