The broad objectives of the intervention schemes championed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in agricultural sector, such as the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS), Commercial Agriculture Development Programme (CADP), the Interest Draw-back scheme, Agricultural Credit Support Scheme as well as the recently introduced Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), are , among others, to shoot up food supply in the country.
Aside this, they are to fast track the development of the agricultural sector by providing credit facilities to commercial agricultural enterprises at a single digit interest rate; enhance national food security by increasing food supply and effecting lower agricultural produce and product prices, thereby promoting low food inflation; generate employment and diversify revenue base.
However, in complementing the efforts of the apex bank, Heritage Bank Plc has keyed into them and made a huge success of the schemes by making funds available to both individuals and corporate organisations in their efforts to increase agricultural output.
But, the country has a great challenge and a great opportunity in its hands: feeding its citizens and driving the nation’s economy forward. These entails harnessing the energy and skills of the young adults in the production, processing and marketing of food for the teeming Nigerian population.
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It is on this note that the Managing Director /CEO of the bank, Ifie Sekibo, takes charge of its ongoing agricultural financing revolution. He has given his commitment to boosting the agriculture base of the nation, affirming that Heritage Bank would continue to make farming profitable to stakeholders and attractive to the youth.
The bank, he said, would remain focused in supporting agribusiness through financing the purchase of modern technology, as it would bring about transformative development to the economy in general.
He, however, noted that the bank would support the drive for cash crop commodities that would boost Nigeria’s foreign exchange (forex) earnings.Just recently, Heritage Bank, in collaboration with CBN, provided N2billion long term facility under the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS) to Triton Aqua Africa Ltd (TAAL).
TAAL, known as Triton Farm, accessed the CACS to set up aquaculture businesses; nursery/hatchery to produce fingerlings and brood stock in Ikeja and earthen ponds for catfish and Tilapia in Asejire, Iwo and Gambari towns in Oyo State.
The company’s strategy is to embrace backward integration through production of fish locally and reduce its importation of frozen fish and as well to assist small scale farms by producing quality breed fingerlings.
Under the arrangement, TAAL will also help small-scale farms increase their fish production by making fingerlings available to them. In the short term, the loan is expected to help Triton double its current production capacity of 25,000 metric tonnes with a projection to scale it up to 100,000 metric tonnes in five years.
Nigeria’s current demand capacity for fish is estimated at 2.7million metric tons and the country currently produces 800,000 metric tons. Triton is now producing 25,000 metric tons and with them on board, about 25,000 metric tons capacity will be added to our current production, the company’s projection is to reach 100,000 metric tons in five years.
Also,the bank is in partnership with the Oyo State government in a multi-billion-naira project to give agriculture a boost in the state. Under the initiative, the bank is supporting the Oyo State Agricultural Initiative (OYSAI), a programme designed to revive agriculture, boost agro-allied businesses and massive empowerment programme for both youth and women across the state through the creation of thousands of jobs in the sector.
This huge, albeit laudable, project that is spread across 3,000 hectares of land in 28 of the 33 Local Government Areas of Oyo State, is in three stages: food crop cultivation, cash crop/horticulture and food processing. Heritage Bank is supporting agro investors involved in this initiative with funds and advisory services and indications are that the programme has already led to more than 30 per cent increase in food production in the state.
Heritage Bank has also supported thousands of small holder farms in Kaduna and Zamfara states to benefit from the bank’s financial support for rice and soya beans production under the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP).
Sekibo says the bank’s drive to support rice production is borne out of the conviction that agribusiness is profitable and act of patriotism to achieve food security and sufficiency in the country.
On its involvement in ABP, the bank provides on-lending funding to aggregated farmers to grow various produce that will serve as raw materials to the processors, thereby ensuring market linkages and access to market as well as reduce importation and conserve Nigeria’s external reserves. In 2016, over N54.89 million and more than N248.41 million was sourced from CBN and disbursed as loans to 185 rice farmers and 414 soya bean farmers respectively in Kaduna State. The same year, about N37,995, million was disbursed to 259 rice farmers via 11 cooperatives in Zamfara State.
The bank also executed MOU for partnership with NIRSAL in 2017 with the following transactions already consummated: For poultry farming in Oyo State, about N29million was received and disbursed to the farmers; N157million was also and disbursed to farmers for maize cultivation in Ogun State, while about N500million was approved by CBN for cassava cultivation in Kebbi State.
Heritage Bank has also given other Nigerian banks a run for their money by participating in other laudable national programmes.
For instance, the bank currently participates in the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP), one of the Social Investment Programmes of the Federal Government, in Oyo State. The programme aims to provide one free meal per day to pupils of government-owned primary schools. The programme currently caters for pupils in primary one to three.
As at date, a total sum of N1.8 billion has been disbursed by the bank to food vendors and suppliers in the state. With all these, other Nigerian banks should join Heritage Bank to eradicate hunger in the land.