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At the dawn of the fall from economic royalty, once enthroned by oil fortunes, Nigeria realised the potential inherent in agriculture and pursued with projects worth billions, in efforts to boost growth through import substitution goals.
Of course, food production is a major challenge all over the world, and with rising population, the demand for food has made it imperative for countries to invest heavily in agriculture.
In Nigeria, access to finance still remains a major challenge, but to increase funding for the sector, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigerian banks established various agricultural schemes as a way of bridging gap.
Besides the most recent and popular initiative called Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), there are the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS), Commercial Agriculture Development Programme (CADP), the Interest Draw-Back Scheme and Agricultural Credit Support Scheme.
The broad objectives of most of the schemes are to fast track 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.
In complimenting the efforts of the apex bank, Nigerian lenders, particularly, Heritage Bank Plc, has made a huge success of the schemes, by making funds available to both individuals and corporate organisations.
Under the headship of Ifie Sekibo, as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Heritage Bank has financed critical agricultural projects in the country and, in the process, putting smiles on the faces of many farmers.
Within the five years of operations, the bank is evolving into a bigger and stronger financial institution, particularly now that the country has great challenge, matched with great opportunity, of feeding its citizens and driving the nation’s economy forward.
These entails harnessing of the energy and skills of the young adults in the production, processing and marketing of food for the teeming Nigerian population. Nigerian youth will find opportunities as entrepreneurs, service providers and paid workers in a sector that is gaining popularity as solution to the troubled economy.
Heritage Bank has continued to make efforts in agricultural financing and taken the front seat in the drive to support government, corporate and individual (including young people) in the attainment of the noble agricultural goals, funding various agricultural projects in several states in the country, especially in Oyo, Kaduna and Zamfara states.
To achieve these, it has triggered assertiveness, deliberate, creative and productive action among the populace towards wealth-creation and self-sufficiency through agriculture sector, identifying with the Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSME).
Sekibo said the bank would not relent in its efforts at boosting the agriculture base of the nation, affirming that the financial institution would continue to make farming profitable to stakeholders and attractive to the youth.