‘Government should review policy on importation for genuine industrialists’
Chief Sanjay Jain, President of Shree Steel Nigeria Limited, spoke on the challenges affecting Steel Roofing Sheets industries in the country and policies needed to reposition the sector. Gbenga Akinfenwa reports.
How would you describe the steel roofing sheet market in Nigeria today?
The market of steel roofing sheet in Nigeria was very good. Currently, it is fairly good. So, considering its present state, it will be good in future. Nigeria is presently struggling, especially with its foreign exchange challenges. Globally, other countries are experiencing the same thing, causing a depressed steel market.
Once the economy is out of this, the market shall improve again. The reason is that Nigeria is a tropical country and, therefore, needs the roofing sheet for its housing and industrial usage. The steel roofing sheet covers 85 per cent of the market segment in the entire roofing sheet market.
What are the stakeholders doing to control fake and substandard roofing sheets in the country?
Though the supply of forex used for importation of roofing sheets has been stopped through the list of 41 items by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), substandard roofing sheets are still making their way into the Nigerian market. We have approached the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), to partner with government to take necessary steps to stop this. At the same time, the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) is also doing its bit to control importation of substandard roofing sheets into the country.
We feel that the customers should be aware of what they are buying. They should only go for branded Nigerian produced roofing sheets to ensure that they are not buying any substandard quality roofing sheets.
Are you saying only imported roofing sheets are substandard?
What effect does government policy on forex have on your production processes?
As a result of reduction in oil prices in the international market, government had to list 41 items, which the CBN stopped giving dollars for their importation into the country. Our raw materials are also one of these 41 items. On the other hand, the present administration has made it very clear that they will emphasise on locally manufactured goods to create more employment.
Now, we are in a situation, where on one hand, our raw materials cannot be sourced with CBN’s officially allocated dollars and government wants us to invest and produce more. With this fact, we approached the ministry of industry, trade and investment and the ministry of finance. They have prepared a case for our industries to seek approval to allow us import our raw materials.
What does the steel roofing sheet industry contribute to Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP)?
The specific figure is not available with me, but as a whole, manufacturing sector is contributing positively every year to Nigeria’s GDP. And the roofing sheet sector within the manufacturing sector is quite substantial value wise, as well as volume wise.
What are the challenges militating against the industry?
The most important challenge, which other oil producing countries are facing today, is reduced availability of dollars. Now, those countries whose economies are dependent on importation of various goods and materials, find themselves in tough corners. CBN has controlled the dollar supply to the importers by issuing the list of 41 items for which they will not give the forex. But in my opinion, it would have been a better idea for Nigeria, as a growing country, to control this importation gradually, because cutting the supply of dollars at once for these items, many of which are very essential for the fast pace growth of the country, would starve the countrymen of these items necessary for individual growth. It has also happened in other countries and the controls were gradual till the industry started producing those items locally.
What policies should government put in place to stabilise the industry?
I have spoken on this in the course of this interview indirectly, but to be very specific, I would say that concerned ministries should provide data on demand for roofing sheets in the country and give some cushions to genuine industrialists. This is to allow them import essential raw materials until the country reaches a level, where dependency on importation is completely overcome.
This will not only stabilise the industry, but at the same time, it will give scope for the uninterrupted growth of the country.