With the Federal Government’s renewed emphasis on economic diversification through agriculture and non oil sector development, First City Monument Bank (FCMB) at the weekend said it has grown its loan portfolio to the agriculture sector in Nigeria to over N74.10 billion, representing 10 per cent of the bank’s total loans.
By Nigerian banking industry standard, this figure is indeed one of the highest in recen times.
The feat, which was achieved in December 2020, is a signal that the deliberate strategy and sustained support of the bank to agribusiness is yielding the desired results and also and indication that its deployment approach has been widely appreciated. It also represents another milestone and a FCMB’’s bold step to further expand and deepen its support to agribusiness, its value-chain and the overall growth of the Nigerian economy.
A breakdown of the N74 billion loan disbursed by the bank to agribusiness, as at the end of December 2020, shows that its Corporate Banking Group gave out N38.82 billion, representing 52.40 per cent of its loan book.
On regional basis, the South-west directorate disbursed N19.06 billion; Lagos region, N11.11 billion; South-east and South-south, N3.06 billion, while Abuja and North region disbursed N1.10 billion.
Analysts have already commended this achievement, expressing broadly positive views of its impact for both FCMB and stakeholders in agribusiness. An operator described the achievement as “a positive move and a statement of intent from FCMB to effectively position and benefit more from the current and emerging opportunities in the agriculture sector to drive business and national prosperity.”
FCMB is seen as making far-reaching impact in agribusiness funding and capacity building through its various intervention programmes, including in the areas of digitisation and agritech. These actions have resulted in better access to finance, research and manpower development by deserving individuals, farmers, organisations and companies in the agriculture sector, with a multiplier effect on the economy. A major component of FCMB’s sustainability principle is on agriculture, with a clear focus towards creating employment and empowerment opportunities, especially for farmers, to reduce the level of poverty. The bank’s intervention in agribusiness financing has led to improved processes, better output, profitability and enhanced confidence in the ability of the financial services sector to drive economic prosperity.
The lender has consistently upscaled its funding and technical support to major companies in the agriculture sector. For instance, FCMB extended a N20 billion loan to Olam International to bolster its operations and productivity. The bank also played a significant role in the establishment of the company’s 36,000 metric tonnes (per annum) capacity milled rice facility located in Nasarawa State, thereby contributing to the Federal Government’s goal to achieve rice output self-sufficiency.
Flour Mills Plc, the largest miller by market capitalisation in Nigeria, equally received $30 million credit facility and N1.50 billion overdraft from FCMB to help support its working capital. Funding worth N300 million was provided some years ago by the bank to Tractor Owners and Hiring Facilities Association of Nigeria (TOHFAN) for the acquisition of tractors that were distributed to farmers in Kaduna State.
In realisation of the gap that exists in agribusiness financing as well as other challenges, FCMB has in place an enhanced agro-commodity trade finance facility for agribusiness operators. The revamped facility is designed for agro-commodity merchants with supply contracts to multinationals, large corporates and processors of agro-commodities. Targeted commodities are cocoa, cashew nut, sesame, ginger, palm oil, grains (maize, sorghum, soybeans, paddy rice). Under this trade finance facility, which is structured in the form of a working capital, the minimum amount that can be accessed by a qualified customer is N100 million, while the maximum is N2 billion.
Commodity producers and traders stand to benefit immensely from this facility because it is a veritable and convenient opportunity to access funds. This ensures consistent cash flow for maximum productivity all through the farming season.
FCMB runs an integrated agency banking model to provide financial services to farmers, especially in remote communities with no access to conventional bank branches. To further bridge this gap, the financial institution is in partnership with some global organisations, including World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WSBI), German International Development Cooperation (GIZ), Technoserve and DFID-LINKS. For instance, the aim of the partnership with WSBI, which started two years ago in five states (Kaduna, Kano, Nasarawa, Ogun and Oyo), is on course to reach the target of two million farmers nationwide by 2023.
These collaborations have gone a long way to deepen agency banking and financial inclusion in the informal and agribusiness sectors, thereby making it easier to effectively profile farmers and execute funding schemes that require their use of bank accounts.
It is also worthy to note that the highly acclaimed partnership between FCMB and Doreo Partners, which birthed the Babban Gona (or great farm) agricultural franchise model, is waxing stronger. The initiative, which started few years ago with just 100 farmers, has now grown to over 20,000. The Babban Gona model offers enhanced training, credit, agricultural input, harvesting and marketing support to member farmers to help them increase their productivity and profitability. It has also become an avenue for employment and wealth creation for youths who engage in agribusiness.