Heritage Bank’s MD Sekibo harps on food security, agro-business funding
The need to deepen commitment as part of efforts in driving the development of agribusiness value chain and fast-tracking food security in the country has been canvassed.
The Managing Director, Heritage Bank Plc, Ifie Sekibo, who made the observation in Lagos, recently, said in a bid to support food sufficiency initiative, his bank would not relent in attracting youths to the sector and making farming profitable.
He said the bank would remain focused in supporting the agribusiness through financing the purchase of modern technology, as it would bring about transformative development to the economy in general.
According to him, the bank would support the drive for cash crop commodities that would boost Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings, which the current administration has been canvassing, given the dangers of reliance on importation of food items to job creation, diversification and development.
The bank’s Group Head, Agriculture Finance, Olugbenga Awe, also disclosed that Heritage Bank is committed to the development of small businesses in the sector.
“Our support cuts across the entire value chain with focus on large corporates and small holder farmers. We encourage value addition and ultimately export,” he said.
He hinted that Heritage Bank is effectively tackling the bottlenecks since it has long identified the opportunities in agribusiness, thereby offering solutions to ensure ease of doing business in the sector.
“For ease of financing, we would be better off with functional commodity exchanges as a country. We can start by refinancing commodities through warehousing receipt systems and gradually, we will move to crop receipt.
“With commodities exchange, the value-chain is strengthened and the whole system is structured. Exchange helps in reducing the long marketing chain, it helps in enforcement of commodity standards, it provides price certainty and in some cases storage and warehousing facilities.
“If we sustain the current momentum on rice, we shall surely export rice in the nearest future, and the operative word here is sustaining the momentum.
“However, there is need for strategic alignment on objectives. The current focus by government is on small holders’ farmers using the instrumentality of the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) by Central Bank of Nigeria,” he said.
Awe also noted that to hasten the export drive, commercial farmers will have to step in and drive the process using mechanisation on thousands of hectares of farmland with vast irrigation networks and all year round farming, as most importers need large quantities delivered on schedule.