Nigerian ports and border posts are currently witnessing gradual decline in level of imports. BusinessDay learns that the ports have seen drops in the value of imports from N9,892.6 billion recorded in 2011 down to N5,624.9 at year-end 2012, representing 43.1 percent decline. This is against the fact that the country is an import dependent economy.
The drop in the volume of imported cargoes, which started manifesting in the fourth quarter of 2012, has brought about an ebb in business activities, as well as low returns on private sector investments at both seaports and land borders.
According to close industry watchers, the drop in the growth of importation volume may still run through the next few months, such that the tempo in business activities at the ports may not pick up till the end of the second quarter of this year.
A look at business performance at some selected terminals at the ports in 2012 shows that some major terminals were not able to meet their targeted volumes in 2012.
“Following the growth trend we have been recording in our terminal since the inception of concession in 2006, we projected 700,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2012, but we handled only 650,000 TEUs, showing a slight increase above the 2011 figure of 628,000 TEUs,” said Dallas Hampton, managing director, APM Terminals, Apapa, in an interview with BusinessDay early this year.
Hampton said: “For the first time since concessioning was introduced, Lagos container terminal, which is Nigeria’s leading container terminal, recorded spare capacity, which may shape the market in 2013. The outlook for economic growth is uncertain as we enter 2013, and container market conditions will likely remain weak for some time.”
A further breakdown of the drop shows that ENL Consortium Limited, an indigenous port operator in charge of Terminals C and D of the Lagos Port Complex (LPC) Apapa, which handles mainly bulk cargoes like cement, rice and wheat, said it was unable to achieve its proposed 4.5 million metric tons of cargo in 2012.
Mark Walsh, general manager of ENL Consortium, said in Lagos that the terminal recorded a shortfall of 12 percent in its proposed cargo volume to 4 million metric tons in 2012.
Confirming this development, the Foreign Trade Statistics published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) noted that there was a sharp decrease in the value of imports in the fourth quarter of 2012, from N9,892.6 billion worth of imports recorded in the fourth quarter of 2011 down to N5,624.9 in 2012, showing a 43.1 percent decrease in value.
According to industry analysts, this decline in imports is as a result of government inconsistency on agricultural policies, and these include increase in the duty paid on imported rice and wheat as well as the ban on importation of bulk cement.
They also blamed the general downturn in the world economy for the downturn in cargo volume, saying that “this makes it difficult for importers to have access to credit facilities that can enable them import.”