Hope rises for cocoa sector as NEXIM readies N5b lifeline

Nigeria may soon bounce back to cocoa processing, and ultimately improve its export value chain, as the House of Representatives has urged the Central Bank to speed up the dispute settlement between the Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), and Multi-Trex.

To this end, the Nigerian Export Import Bank (NEXIM) is also readying a N5billion credit facility to the company, as working capital under its Export Stimulation Facility (ESF), to enable it rev up cocoa processing in its two lines for domestic and export purposes.

The cocoa processing plant had been shut down for about five years over its credit facility from Skye Bank.

However, both AMCON and Multi-Trex have now reached an advanced level of agreement, awaiting a sign off by CBN on AMCON’s request to enable the company withdraw its only remaining court case and facilitate a new loan.

Addressing stakeholders over the weekend during the tour of the plant in Ogun State by the House of Representatives Committee on Banking and Currency, its Chairman, Jones Onyereri, said: “it is obvious that the funds (earlier granted) were well utilised.

“The challenges were beyond their control. So, people like him and the stakeholders should be encouraged. You also saw the machinery on ground, so we must encourage the private sector because that is the only way we can grow the economy.

“If we don’t grow the real sector of the economy, then we are joking. This bill about high interest rate we have to do away with it.”

Stressing the need to strengthen the manufacturing sector to stimulate economic growth, Onyereri urged Nigeria to “stop running round in circles,” but develop the financial services commission, where fiscal and monetary authorities go to address the issues of high interest rate and artificial benchmark that benefits the Shylocks.

According to him, “you can’t borrow on 25-30 per cent and expect the business will grow, it just can’t work. So, we need to have some kind of political will to bring down the interest rate. We must encourage the private sector, if not, we are joking.

“We keep pushing as a parliament because we know what to do and we are doing it because we have the will, but nothing actually works until there is an executive approval.”

On his part, the NEXIM Managing Director, Abba Bello, disclosed that discussions were almost finalised, only awaiting Multi-Trex’s terms of settlement with AMCON, as the company’s application is within ESF limit of N5billion.

Justifying the intervention, Bello said: “This is one of the best projects that we can support under the ESF because the equipment are there, this is just for working capital and it means that whatever we lend will be turning around may be 180 days maximum. I am sure by the end of second quarter, we should be done.

Meanwhile, the company’s Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Dimeji Owofemi, disclosed that the two trains of the cocoa industry, which was established on July 1, 1987, could process 65,000 tonnes per year at full capacity, and given that a tonne of cocoa last season went as high as N1million, the planned N5billion can only buy 5,000 tonnes.