CEO of Erisco Foods, Chief Eric Umeofia, has said that he is leaving Nigeria to set up shops in Kenya, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire and Ethiopia.
Umeofia said the exit was due to the harsh business environment in the country. Also, he wants to be the dominant tomato paste manufacturer in Africa, producing from at least 20 countries.
Furthermore, Nigeria’s top tomato-paste maker said his attraction to the countries is because of the ease of doing business.
Umeofia had recently announced that he was relocating his key manufacturing plant to China. This is due to ‘policy inconsistencies’ now crippling his Nigeria operations.
Most noteworthy is the undue favouritism to Lebanese, Indian and Chinese businessmen in the allocation of foreign exchange in the same line. Therefore his company and other Nigerian companies involved in manufacturing were dealt a serious blow.
Erisco Foods is listed as Africa’s top tomato paste manufacturer. According to records, the company is also the fourth largest of its type in the world.
The Industrialist had announced plans in October to shut down operations at the factory in Lagos. He decided to relocate to China to produce at cheaper cost and then, sell the goods in Nigeria and other African markets. He disclosed that he would make more profit doing so.
“This appears to be the only reasonable thing for me to do since my cries appear to have no meaning for those stifling our operations.”
Umeofia said that he brought his manufacturing concerns worth about $150m in Dubai and Angola to Nigeria in 2009.
“But dumping of sub-standard tomato pastes from mainly Asian nations has resulted to Erisco Foods losing up to N3.5bn in recent years.”
“More so, our products worth about N6bn remain unsold. This is due to the flooding of our markets with sub-standard tomato pastes from foreign countries.
“If we don’t leave Nigeria now we’ll go bankrupt. I believe that my leaving will open up the environment for government to understand the dilemma facing Nigerian manufacturers like me.”
All proposed ventures cancelled
In addition, Erisco Foods would also no longer go ahead with its plan to set up a plant to manufacture tractors and other agricultural accessories in northern Nigeria. This is as a result of lack of forex to push the venture..
He further stated he had returned the certificate of occupancy to Katsina State Government for 2,400 hectares of land.
Umeofia also accused some top officials of some government agencies conniving with foreigners to short-change Nigeria.
“Some government agencies are impeding and frustrating us in our bid to create jobs for Nigerians. The agencies prefer to favour dubious Chinese, Indian and Lebanese businessmen. They make them to create jobs in their countries and depleting Nigeria of jobs.
“Favouring foreigners doing business in Nigeria is counter-productive because no foreigner can love Nigeria better than Nigerians.”
Erisco Foods has a plant capable of producing 450,000 metric tonnes of tomato paste and ketchup annually. But, the company is producing at below 20 per cent of its installed capacity, due to sundry challenges.