by Ada Anioji
First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s leading financial services firm in furtherance of its support and value for the development of the Agricultural sector, hosted its first ever Agric Expo summit in Lagos.
The event brought together stakeholders in the Agric sector, who were eager to explore ways of collaborating to boost the value chain in the sector and improve the financing model for what is noted as a viable industry.
Giving the opening remarks at the event, the MD/CEO of First Bank of Nigeria Dr Adesola Adeduntan described Agriculture as the sector that “Holds sway in the mission to eradicate poverty in the country”.
Dr Adeduntan believed it was time for Nigeria to witness an Agro-Industrial Renaissance Programme, harnessing the diverse agro-systems and value chain. This he noted required strategic stakeholder engagement on the way forward, hence the maiden First Bank Agric Expo.
The First Bank MD, said his bank was building strong alliance with the agro-services sector, manifest in the expo and remained optimistic about the sector’s prospects which has been demonstrated by the bank in its agric schemes.
In his special address, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Chief Audu Ogbeh who was the Special Guest of Honour, described the Agro-sector as a vital one with the recent NBS Q4, 2016 GDP growth rate of about 4%, and a 24% contribution to the economy.
Chief Ogbeh decried the menace of the importation of foodstuffs into the country, which he identified as a major threat to achieving self-sufficiency in food production.
According to the Agric Minister “If we cannot grow food and feed ourselves, we don’t exist as a Nation”. He also noted that policy inconsistency over the decades played a major factor in stalling an Agricultural revolution in the country.
The Minister also listed the strategies of his ministry to include re-launching cocoa, commercial production of shea butter, coconut oil production and producing/exporting cashew.
On financing, Chief Ogbeh was worried about the interest rate level for farmers in Nigeria which stands above 18%, stating that “Nigeria was the only country with an interest rate for farmers above 5%”. He urged First Bank to pioneer efforts, towards improving access to credit to farmers at a favourable interest rate regime.
In his keynote the Country Manager for AFEX Commodities Exchange Mr Ayodeji Balogun speaking on the topic “Reinventing Agric for Sustainable National Development, will require capital, talent and a high drive for productivity in the sector. He also noted that there was need to rethink collaterized lending and consider structured trade finance for the Agric sector.
The event also featured a panel session and an Agric expo exhibition, which was officially declared open by the Minister for Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh.