As the forex policy bites harder on the populace,the pharmaceutical sector, which is the biggest private employer of labour in the health sector are not left out.
The Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN) has said that over a third of its members have shut down production due to lack of access to forex for critical raw material, mainly Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) and machinery inputs.
Chairman of the association, Mr Okey Akpa, in a statement yesterday said research over the last 18 months indicated that capacity utilisation among pharma manufacturers was at an all-time low of 20% and the consequences of these challenges included the current increase in cost of healthcare treatment as well as the shortage of medicines across the country.
He said: “The pharmaceutical manufacturing sector, usually considered the lifeline of the national healthcare system, has been wracked with the desperate challenges as operations in most factorieshave almost ground to a halt.
“If left unchecked we may have an unprecedented level of medicines’ scarcity, exorbitant prices and a reprehensible overdependence on drug importation, which may expose the nation again to the menace of faking and counterfeiting.”
Akpa said that further closure of PMG-MAN members’ factories would throw close to one million Nigerians out of their jobs and into penury, adding that that had started as many PMG-MAN members had drastically reduced their workforce in response to reduced production capacity necessitated by inadequate access to forex.
The PMG-MAN chairman called on government to urgently address the anomaly created by the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) whereby imported medicines attract zero duty while raw and packaging materials for local manufacturing attract up to 20% duty.
While commending efforts made so far towards addressing the CET imbalance, he warned that the high attrition rate in the sector, and the disastrous consequences of further delays, indicated the need for government’s imminent intervention.
He added that access to funding at single digit interest rate was another urgent intervention needed to reverse the catastrophic decline in the sector.
Chief executives of top pharmaceutical manufacturing companies under the auspices of PMG-MAN recently met to review the new directive of the CBN on forex sales to end users and commended the CBN’s decision to ensure that at least 60% of forex sales are made to local manufacturers as a timely intervention to boost local manufacturing.
“We view this policy positively as it has the potential not only to increase Nigerians’ access to medicines, but also support massive employment in the sector, improve the economy and facilitate export of Nigerian medicines to neighbouring countries,” Akpa said in the statement.