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First Bank emphasizes support for agric sector

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Head Structured Trade Commodity Finance, First Bank of Nigeria, Ikenna Egbukole has revealed  how the bank has leveraged on several intervention funds set aside by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)to support farm owners in Nigeria, especially in the rice business.

This bank’s support largely contributed to the current increase in rice production in the country.

In a panel session panel on digitalization of Agric in Nigeria and Sub- Saharan Africa at the 2020 GTR West Africa, themed: ‘Driving Economic Growth with Trade’, Egbukole said, First Bank has done a lot with the support of the CBN, using lots of the intervention funds.

He said, “There has been a lot of support, especially with the present government, to support the agric sector, using the Anchor Borrowers Scheme, let me take for example the rice production in Nigeria, there has been a lot, supporting the big traders.

“If you look at what the present government is doing through the CBN, they are more focused on support to farmers, and also lending to them at a single-digit interest rate. First bank has participated a lot in that, supporting both the millers and Anchor Borrowers who are the main farmers, supporting also the off-takers.

“Let’s look at the rice business, whereby we have supported the likes of Olam, Wacot, and the rest, who have very big farms in Kano, kaduna, Kebbi, doing a lot. So we have supported a lot of those farmers and am sure they are also very happy with us.

“From the banking perspective, the use of technology has helped in knowing the area to support because you have a clear knowlege of the off taker who is going to buy. Today’s presentation is talking about how digitalization technology can be used to improve Agric produce and yields in Africa, with more focus in west Africa.

“Today we have people in fintech, in IT, people from other big financial institutions like First bank deliberating and discussing ways and means IT can be used to improve yields. of course, the benefit of IT can’t be overruled looking at what has happened in the financial system.

“ With the use of digitalization, rural farmers will have more information, more knowledge, more training of the best practices to improve yields and production of their produce, and of course, looking at what has happened in farming in this part of the world, whereby the yields has been so low compared to developed economies whereby the yields are high, with the support and digitalization and IT, farmers will have more information on how to apply the right fertilizer, how to use the right input, how to use the right seedlings and also,” he said.

According to him, when there is improvement in seedlings, farmers will also know how to use technology, adding that will be more beneficial to them in their products and yields.

Egbukole listed trade barriers within the sub-Saharan African Region to include documentation, knowledge of what they are trading on, saying that in this part of the world, “We don’t have many big traders or farmers, what we have is a small pocket and pockets of farmers and the most challenge for them is having the right seedlings, having the right input and also, knowing how to apply those improved seedlings that are given to them. Storage has also been a major barrier, for example.

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