It was hard to suppress the laughter as I read last night of the triumphant return to Nigerian production of Erisco, the tomato processing company.
The news was trumpeted by the ever flamboyant and perpetually sartorially quixotic Chairman, Chief Eric Umeofia.
Who could forget the theatrical and emotional farewell the Chief paid to Nigeria a few months ago, declaring he was moving production to China due to FG policy of allowing cheap tomato paste imports into the country that undercut his business.
Who knows if these were crocodile tears he shed or how much he was in cahoots with the administration?
However, lo and behold, a few months later the FG announces tariffs on imports and the bird recants his farewell song and returns to catch the juicy worm.
Discerning followers of Naira Insider will remember the comments we made a couple of weeks ago when the tomato paste importation tarrifs were announced.
We were skeptical that Erisco had ever shut down or ever planned to move production.
We also stated that the real reason for tariff applications would be made clear by the actions of those in and around the industry.
We speculated on who would benefit and what they would do.
On the surface Erisco and it’s chairman are exactly the entities that should benefit from a tarrif on imports.
It makes their inefficient production more competitive and gives them a chance of achieving price parity or even some level of an advantage.
However, this is the same man who has complained in the past about the elite undercutting him by getting customs waivers etc.
It is a genuine head-scratching moment.
Is Erisco suddenly lauding the FG and declaring, teary eyed , that they will continue to produce in Nigeria because of the Government’s feather bedding?
Or was it all a magician’s sleight of hand, an elaborate method of disguising collaboration between the FG cronies and Erisco to create large profits for their collective pockets.
Or was the Chief really able to bully the FG into protecting his business?
As ever, the truth is obscured.
But experience tells us one thing, don’t believe what the mainstream media and the “big men” say.
Subnote: I was amused to read that Erisco says it employs 1500 plus personnel.
If this is so then they deserve to go out of business as the most inefficient manufacturing company in the food processing sector.
I once consulted to an Oil company that claimed 5000 employees but only had 600 on the payroll.
Proof positive that size does matter.