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Has the President erred in stopping CBN from funding food imports?

What implication does the President’s directive to the CBN hold for the economy?

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PIB; Will the jinx be broken this time around?, President Buhari may sign 2020 Budget tomorrow, President Buhari approves N37 billion for National Assembly renovation, President Buhari appoints Sarki Auwalu to head DPR , FG may stop interstate and inter-town travels, COVID-19: President salutes Elumelu, Dangote, Atiku, Banks, others for support, Naira export earnings, Covid-19: FG to set up N500 billion intervention fund, sovereign wealth, FG issues guidelines on implementation of gradual easing of lockdown nationwide, Electricity: FG approves one year waiver of import on meters, Buhari backs Lagos State Government Judicial Panel of Inquiry

The President of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, last week said, “I am restating it that nobody importing food or fertilizer should be given foreign exchange from the Central Bank. We will not pay a kobo of our foreign reserves to import food or fertilizer. We will instead empower local farmers and producers.”

Why is the president stopping the CBN from funding food imports? The answer is simple. The CBN Exchange rates are cheaper than autonomous sources. The CBN lists the exchange rate for the Dollar at $1 to N379, however the Naira is being sold on the parallel market at N440. Hence, importers prefer to access CBN funds to import, because it reduces the cost of those imports. In effect, at N379, the CBN is subsidizing those imports via a ‘strong Naira’

The President’s directive is thus in line with his new overall push to eliminate all subsidies especially subsidies funded by the scare US dollar. In this aspect, the President is simply seeking to protect the foreign reserves which are paying for other imports. So, he is right.

READ: CBN to set up $39.4 billion infrastructure development company with AFC, NSIA

Is this a wise strategy?

Nairametrics earlier reported on the NBS recently released report on Nigeria’s total spending, which indicated that about N22.7 trillion was spent on food in 2019. This is 56.7% of the total spending (N40.2 trillion) for that period.

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Where does the food Nigerians eat come from? Clearly Nigeria has a large agricultural base, but a significant proportion of Nigeria’s food is imported, and the cost of those imports have risen, as the value of the Naira has depreciated in relation to the US dollar.

(READ MORE: Agrorite leading the fight against food insecurity using Agtech)

According to data from the NBS, Nigeria’s spending on food and drink importation increased from $2.9bn in 2015 to $4.1bn in 2017, but dipped in 2018.

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Have these imports plus local production met local demand on a consistent basis? The answer is no. Take rice for instance, the BBC reports that, “Between 2015, when the foreign exchange restrictions for rice came into effect, and early 2017, the price of a 50kg bag of rice went from $24 to $82 and fell in mid-2017 to $34, but in June 2019, the price stood at $49.”

The law of supply in economics, states that when the price of a commodity increases, its supply also increases. Hence, there is a direct relationship between price and supply of a commodity. In other words, if the price of rice goes up, more suppliers will enter the market to supply rice.

READ: Naira devaluation would affect our profit margins – Flour Mills

However, In Nigeria, as the price of food is rising, the NBS in the latest Inflation report, says the composite food index rose by 15.48% in July 2020 compared to 15.18% in June 2020. This rise in the food index was caused by increases in prices of Bread and cereals, Potatoes, Yam and other tubers, Meat, Fruits, Oils and fats, and Fish. (essentially everything). The NBS says, the average price of 1kg of rice (imported high quality sold loose) increased year-on-year by 37.72%.

So why has the supply of rice not risen to correspond with rise in prices? Well, because the supply of rice and other foodstuff have indeed risen, but the problem remains logistics processing & storage.

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In Nigeria, you only eat corn during corn season, same with mangoes, and tomatoes. Prices fall during harvest, then rise after harvest. The problem is not just with the harvest, but getting that harvest to market, storing the excess, and processing its supplies all year round. Therefore, imports are needed to plug supply holes.

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READ: CBN removes “third parties” from buying forex routed through Form M

Nigerians in 2019 alone spent N1.9trillion or 4.7% of their budget on rice alone. When the President banned food importers from getting the CBN dollar at N379; he simply pushed them to import rice at N440; a N61 difference that will be added to the cost of imports, and will fuel imported inflation.

Where the president got it wrong is trying to fix a local logistics problem with a foreign exchange fix.

READ: Official: Nigeria spends N1.2 billion only on imports of Arms and Ammunition

The solution is to go back to the various food supply value chains, de-risk and de-cost them. If food is cheap and plentiful, there will be no need for imports and inflation will fall.

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Columnists

October PMI reveals rebound in economic activities

Manufacturing PMI has remained below 50 index points for the past six consecutive months.

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Manufacturing: Activity levels pick up albeit readings still below water

According to the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) data released by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the month of October, activity levels in the manufacturing and nonmanufacturing sectors strengthened even as readings remained below 50 index points. Specifically, the manufacturing PMI expanded to 49.4 in October from 46.9 in September, indicating slower contraction compared to the prior five months. Similarly, the nonmanufacturing PMI strengthened to 46.8 in October from 41.9 in September, halting two months of consecutive contraction in the index. That said, we note that Manufacturing PMI has remained below 50 index points for the past six consecutive months while NonManfacturing PMI has been below 50 index points for the past seven consecutive months.

Across the key indices in the manufacturing PMI, save for Supplier delivery time (-1.7) which recorded some deterioration, the remaining four indices in the manufacturing sector improved in October; Raw materials/WIP Inventory (+3.2), New orders (+4.8), Production level (+2.7) and Employment level (+1.9). We think the deterioration in Supplier delivery time reflects the impact of the nationwide unrest and peaceful protests on logistics and distribution channels of manufacturing firms. Furthermore, we note that while Employment
level and Raw material inventories improved in October, they remain below the 50-point mark which reflects weak labour employment and FX illiquidity challenges impacting ability to import critical raw materials. The data further revealed that, of the 14 surveyed subsectors in the manufacturing sector, six (compared to four in September) reported growth while 8 (compared to ten in September) contracted.

For non-manufacturing PMI, all four of the key metrics recorded improvement albeit they all remained below the 50-point mark. Across all the indices; Business Activity (+5.0), Level of new orders (+8.3), Employment level (+2.6) and Inventory level (+3.2) showed decent improvements. We think the decent recovery in Non-manufacturing PMI was driven by sustained recovery in activities of service-based organisations in the face of reduced covid19 restrictions.


CSL Stockbrokers Limited, Lagos (CSLS) is a wholly owned subsidiary of FCMB Group Plc and is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Nigeria. CSLS is a member of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

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Traders’ Voice: Trading during a curfew

The NSEASI finally crossed into positive territory YTD this month after suffering a major blow from the Covid-19 induced sell-off.

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Excerpt from my dairy (21/10/2020)
“Hmm! How did we get here? What did I miss? How did we go from a historical peaceful protest to reports of
violence and looting? 2020, haven’t you done enough already? Oh lord, I know I don’t normally pray for
Nigeria, but please protect everyone stranded in Lekki. The night started on Twitter. Pictures of the cameras
being taken down was shared. Theories of conspiracy, the unsafe location and ‘get out of there’ tweets were being tweeted all at once, but no one saw this coming. I couldn’t believe it was daybreak when I looked outside the window as my eyes were still wide open and my heart still kept beating fast as if I had just come back from a morning jog. I took some time out, talked to some of my loved ones I couldn’t reach before and it gave me some level of comfort and ease. I decided I had to keep it cool and focus on work. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. The first gunshot I heard this year. I heard it once, twice, thrice, and then I couldn’t keep count anymore.

Survival instincts set in; I shut all windows and doors and then the typical Nigerian in me came alive and I
started praying. I have never prayed so hard in years, even whilst executing clients’ trade orders. This will surely
be a day to remember.”

In spite of all the unrest and violence we all witnessed in most part of the country especially Lagos, the commercial hub of Nigeria, markets still witnessed a positive showing in the Bonds and Equities space WoW. This begets the question, “Is Nigeria’s financial market defying all rules of logic?”

Before I delve into this, we should let you all know that our heart is heavy and goes out to everyone who lost a
loved one or got injured during this traumatic period of unrest and also to all SMEs, corporate and government,
whose properties were vandalized and looted. I must say, it was extremely exhausting and heart-breaking to
watch people’s sweat go down the drain especially with how challenging this year has been already. Amidst the current unrest happening in our dear country, we would like to encourage everyone to keep staying safe and pray for our dear country.

Market defying logic…

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The equities market managed to close in positive territory last week despite the insecurity and unrest seen in
the country. The Nigerian Stock Exchange All Share Index (NSEASI) advanced by 0.13% WoW to close at
28,697.06 points as it witnessed gains on three (3) out of five (5) trading days of the week. The NSEASI YtD
improved further, climbing up to 6.91% YTD from 6.77% YTD in the prior week. However, we saw weakness
in investors sentiment, as market breadth closed at 0.80x (vs. 1.52x recorded last week) as the market recorded
twenty-eight (28) advancers against thirty-five (35) decliners in the week. The hunt for yield (Particularly from
a dividend perspective) coupled with the unattractive fixed-income yields and fairly robust system liquidity
continues to provide support in the equities market as the dip witnessed in the middle of the trading week was
met with sizeable bargain hunting activities across most sectors of the market.

NSEASI

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The Bond market also sustained its bullish momentum last week on the back of the liquidity improvement
coupled with the unmet bid at the monthly FGN bond auction. The Bond auction which held on October 21,
2020 (I know, right? I didn’t think it was going to hold too but I guess we still have a budget deficit to fund)
was relatively strong with a bid to cover of 5.24x as DMO sold NGN45 billion(as against NGN30 billion
offered) across the 15-Year and 25-Year papers, at stop rates of 4.97% and 6.00% respectively. Consequently,
yields declined by 69 basis points on average across the curve. By the way, speaking of defying the odds, did
you notice that even with everything happening the local sovereign bond yields remained lower than the
Nigerian Sovereign Eurobonds? (Not sure they teach this in school).

Three major hypothesis that have been confirmed this week are:

H1: Market liquidity has a significant impact on financial market performance in Nigeria

H2: Fundamentals may not necessarily impact financial markets as anticipated in Nigeria

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H3: The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay liquid.

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Nevertheless, we expect the impact of largely felt disruption and looting seen in the past week to put downward
pressure on the already depressed economy, with Lagos State alone estimating the cost of its damage to be
about a N1 trillion, although figures are yet to be confirmed (That is slightly above the entire state’s revised
budget at N920.469bn). As we continue to face economic challenges, with inflation on the rise, mounting
pressure on our reserves, weaker crude prices and declining FDIs and FPIs, the road to recovery seems more
distance than ever.

Where is the money?

NIGERIA EUROBOND

The recent volatility seen across all dollar underlying assets coupled with the security crises-driven sell-off has
created entry point in the Nigeria Eurobond market which currently yield higher than the local FGN bonds.

Equities Market

The equities market has been on a rally this October 2020 as local investors resumed bargain-hunting as yields
remain depressed in the fixed income market. The NSEASI finally crossed into positive territory YTD this month
after suffering a major blow from the Covid-19 induced sell-off. NSEASI is currently up 6.91% YTD. We expect
the bullish trend to persist in coming weeks as investors will be looking to position themselves ahead of Q3
earnings as yields remain depressed in the fixed income market. Dividend yield remains the major play.

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#EndSARS events and the impact on the Insurance industry

The massive destruction of both public and private property has sparked worries on the ability of the insurance sector to cope with the expected number of claims.

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#EndSARS events and the impact on the Insurance industry

The peaceful protests staged by youths across the country, mobilized through various social media platforms to protest against the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), took a sad turn last week following alleged shooting of unarmed protesters at the Lekki toll gate. In what could be referred to as a reaction to the shootings, hoodlums hijacked the protests and began the destruction of both private and public properties. For example, In
locations like Surulere, almost every shop, bank, shopping mall and ATM gallery along Bode Thomas and Adeniran Ogunsanya streets were damaged and goods carted away freely and there were reports of similar incidences in other parts of Lagos and in other states. There were also reports of BRT buses burnt at terminals and buildings razed down by fire. The Lagos State governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu was reported to have said the state alone would need c.N1 trillion for reconstruction after the destruction caused by the hoodlums.

READ: Report any employer without Group Life Insurance for employees – PenCom

The massive destruction of both public and private property has sparked worries on the ability of the insurance sector to cope with the expected number of claims. According to news reports, many operators expect claims to run into billions of naira which may be overwhelming for the insurance players if the government fails to offer some sort of aid especially as the sector is right in the middle of a recapitalisation exercise. In what may be a
reaction to these fears, the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) Insurance Index, a benchmark to measure the performance of the insurance sector closed lower by 0.59% for the week (ended 23-Oct-2020). It is however not too clear how much of the #EndSARS loss incident is covered under the different types of available policies.

READ: MTN Nigeria, Zenith Bank post gains, as investors gain N54.42 billion

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READ: CBN invests over N120 billion on 320,000 farmers across CTG within four years

The Nigerian Insurance sector remains largely underdeveloped with Insurance penetration still at c.2% and with the sector contributing less than 0.5% to GDP. The sector which contracted by 29.5% in the Q2 GDP report released by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics is set for a deep recession this year. Yet to recover from the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic which has resulted in an increase in health, travel and business disruption claims, players will now have to face the impact of the recent destruction of properties across the country on claims amidst trying to meet the new capital requirements set by regulators.

READ: NSIA Insurance assures customers of tailor-made solutions 

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CSL Stockbrokers Limited, Lagos (CSLS) is a wholly owned subsidiary of FCMB Group Plc and is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Nigeria. CSLS is a member of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

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