Ecobank Nigeria Enters Strategic Partnership with NIRSAL;Announces N70B Agriculture Financing Scheme

Ecobank Nigeria has entered into a strategic partnership with the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk-Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) with a N15 billion agricultural investment scheme being the first tranche in agricultural value chain financing. The partnership between both institutions is in line with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s request that banks provide more funding to the agriculture sector. NIRSAL was set up by the Federal Governmental as an innovative mechanism targeted at de-risking lending to the agricultural sector. It is designed to provide the singular transformational and one bullet solution to break the seeming jinx in Nigeria’s agricultural lending and development.

Announcing the partnership in Lagos during a business meeting with the management of NIRSAL, Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan also disclosed that Ecobank Nigeria had concluded plans to invest at least N70 billion in agriculture financing within the next three years. He noted that the N15 billion dedicated funding with NIRSAL guarantee is for an initial takeoff tranche and rollovers will be done at the completion of each cycle.

“Agriculture is pivotal to the success and development of any nation’s economy. We are therefore committed to working with NIRSAL to open up the vast opportunities that abound in agriculture. Ecobank has done it in other countries across the continent, so we can do the same in Nigeria. This will give us the opportunity to create employment and enable farmers to finance their children’s education with ease. We prefer people to see us not just as a bank, but as a partner who will help them succeed. We are part of the community and we meet the people at the point of their needs.” he noted.

Further, Mr Akinwuntan noted that with a larger African footprint than any other bank in the world operating in West, Central, East and Southern Africa, Ecobank is the only bank that spans 36 African countries yet operates a truly integrated African network.

“Ecobank’s unique and largest pan-African platform is designed to help unlock the opportunities of the continent and for the continent, through standardization, fuelling regional integration, trade and investment across borders. Due to our sterling performance, we have been severally recognized; Most recently as ‘Best Retail Bank in Africa 2019’ at African Banker Awards and also as Most Admired Financial Services Brand in Africa 2019 by Brand Africa 100”.

In his remarks, the Managing Director/CEO of NIRSAL, Mr. Aliyu Abdulhameed urged the bank to harness the opportunities available in financing the agricultural sector leveraging on NIRSAL’s template of geo-cooperatives of 250Ha with a ticket size as much as N65 million naira, where all the players in the agricultural value chain are locked-in with an end-to-end approach and near zero cash handling system under a de-risked ecosystem to optimize agricultural value chain financing. He stated that this unique approach to agribusiness creates value for both farmers and financiers.

According to Abdulhameed, “At NIRSAL, we work primarily to create value for both financiers and farmers. It is in view of this that we have created innovative tools, techniques, methodologies and established strategic partnerships like this, to create a symbiotic relationship between all actors along the Agricultural value chain.”

The CBN led by Governor Godwin Emefiele has been at the vanguard of investment in Agricilture as a key contributor to the country’s economy.

It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had recently sought the collaboration of Ecobank Group to “institute a special fund to develop agriculture, which will cement its legacy as a bank that helped to transform this region’s economic fortunes. President Buhari spoke when he had an audience with the ETI board led by the Group Chairman, Emmanuel Ikazoboh.


Untapped Shea Butter in Nigeria can Yield $2bn yearly

An Agribusiness firm, Nigerian Agribusiness Register Networking (AgNet) has come out to say that Nigeria is capable of earning $2 billion which is about ₦721 trillion annually.

This was stated by the AgNet’s managing director, Mr. Roland Oroh at a press conference in Abuja

He stated that according to the Global Shea Alliance (GSA) briefing of the 6th International Shea Industry Conference revealed that Nigeria has a large number of Shea trees which is the largest in the world.

According to Oroh, while the country host over 60 percent of Shea trees, it failed to take advantage of the full potential through value chain initiative to enter the global market.

Oroh said that AgNet is greatly concerned over the discovered value chain and has concluded plan to host a larger conference to educate Nigerians on the potential of Shea butter to the Nigerian economy.

Nigeria to provide 6.5 million ‘smart cards’ for improved seeds – Official

The Nigerian government has said it will provide 6.5 million smart cards for improved seed containers in the country.

The DG National Agriculture Seed Council (NASC), Philp Ojo, said this during a meeting with some partners in Abuja on Thursday.

The meeting had as its theme “Increasing Production and Dissemination of Quality Early Generation seeds to improve income and food security of Farmers in Nigeria”.

He said the scratch cards will be attached to the seed container and will benefit over two million farmers with a target of 1810 early generation seeds.

Mr Ojo said the electronic turnkey is a new innovation that will be used in the area of seed certification.

Last month, PREMIUM TIMES reported that NASC had continued to demand the use of quality seeds in the Nigerian agricultural sector for better yield.

They said farmers patronise seed merchants who sell them fake seeds that endanger their businesses.

Mr Ojo had warned the fake seed peddlers to desist from further sale of adulterated seeds as the effects are huge.

NASC also announced its transition from analogue to digital certification of seeds.

The aim of the transition is to monitor seeds and improve the agricultural yield across the nation.

Farmers, with the help of the seed tracker, will be able to discern adulterated seeds from anywhere in the world electronically.

Meanwhile, the official said there are specific expectations from the project, ”which will improve the livelihood of the farmers.”

”This will be through increase in their harvest,” he said.

He outlined various challenges facing the industry such as dissemination of the early generation seed which he said had been the problem of the seed industry.

Similarly, the technical adviser to the DG NASC, Folarin Otedola, said funds have been received and will be channelled to ” those concerned”.

Also speaking at the event, the Country Manager, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Kehinde Makinde, promised to ensure that agriculture has the right kind of priority that will help the sector thrive.


Future of Nigerian cocoa production lies in Niger Delta – Report

BASED on the volume of cocoa output from the Niger Delta region and the number of cocoa farmers there, a new report says the future of Nigerian cocoa production lies in the region.

The output of Nigerian cocoa beans for three years, between 2014/15 and 2016/17 was 620,000 metric tons and Niger Delta Delta states accounted for 546, 822 metric tons of the total output, revealed Cocoa Value Chain Assessment Report.

In the report unveiled by the Foundation for Partnership Initiative in the Niger Delta (PIND), 88 per cent of the total cocoa output for those years was produced by the Niger Delta states.

“There are 120, 000 active cocoa farmers in the Niger Delta and 66 per cent of them have plantations with size ranging from one to five hectare of land,” says Executive Director of PIND, Dara Akala, while presenting the report at a Cocoa Stakeholders’ round-table held in Akure, Ondo State capital.

According to him, the report was the result of a study carried out by the Foundation to provide a detailed scoping and value chain analyses of the cocoa sector in the Niger Delta.

He explained that PIND is already implementing interventions in aquaculture, cassava, poultry and palm oil sectors adding that with some of the interventions attaining full maturity and reaching scale, the Foundation is now expanding into the cocoa sector.

“The cocoa sector has growth potential and ability to increase income and employment,” he said.

He said the Foundation’s vision, within five years, is that the cocoa industry in the Niger Delta will be characterised by improved linkages and communications between smallholder farmers and the processors and exporters, with mutual incentives.

Akala who was represented by PIND’s Market Systems Development Manager, James Elekwachi added that cocoa accounted for more than 30 percent of Nigeria’s agricultural export and generated a total of $774.6million in 2016 out of which $83.6million came from exportation of cocoa derivatives including cocoa butter and cocoa paste.

In 2016, the report said agriculture accounted for 24.2 per cent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), noting that the sector is highly concentrated on crop production which accounts for 90 per cent output.

“Fishery, forestry and livestock, account for remaining 10 per cent,” the report said, insisting that the country’s agricultural potential is still high because Nigeria 82million hectares of arable land, out of which only 34million hectares have been cultivated.

It remarked that Nigeria cocoa production in the past 17 years has witnessed some volatility, noting that production has been fairly flat, “with peaks and valleys due to the cyclicality of cocoa tree production and weather conditions.”

“It was discovered from the study that for one hectare of a cocoa farm in Ondo State, the 7th year is the break-even point.”

On the cocoa processing industry, the report disclosed that the industry is divided between the processing industry (intermediate processors and finished good processors) and exporters.

While noting that local immediate processing companies produce cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa cake, it said a number of them are already grappling for survival and some have closed down the operation.

“Of the 17 intermediate processing companies, only five are functional with combined capacity utilisation of 50, 000 metric ton and four of them are in Ondo State,” the report said.

However, it stressed, that an estimated 90 per cent of these cocoa derivatives are exported, not including cocoa powder.

It further stated that there were 123 firms in cocoa business in Nigeria including processors and exporters, and that there are 20 regular exporters operating in the sector out of which only three of them control 50 per cent of cocoa beans export.

Small scale farmers, the report said, have no direct contact with the processors and exporters, lamenting that the awareness of sustainable production or certification to motivate better producer price among farmers in is limited to about 10 per cent of farmers in the Niger Delta region.

“If Nigerian exporters can incentivise farmers to produce more cocoa, they can sell it, so the challenge is on increasing production through increased productivity and greater area under production,” the report suggested.

“An integrated markets approach, considering economic, social and environmental dimensions is needed to improve cocoa sector competitiveness.”


U.S. Tasks Nigeria To Leverage On Agriculture For Wealth, Economic Growth

Mr John Bray, the U.S. Consul General in Lagos has urged Nigeria to leverage on its vast agricultural potential to create wealth and boost its economy. Bray said this on Friday in Lagos during the African Food and Products Conference and Exhibition (AFPE) with the theme, “Sustainability and Innovation: Pathway to Business Success for SMEs’’. Bray represented by Brent Omdahl, Commercial Counselor, U.S. Commercial Service, said that the world knew Nigeria as an oil country not as an agriculture rich nation.

The task before Nigeria is to show the world its enormous potential in agriculture. “Nigeria needs to use agriculture to create wealth, employment and grow its economy, U.S. is doing that and Nigeria can do that too. “In the next 50 years, what produce will be known around the world as a signature product from Nigeria.

“Would it be shea butter, tiger nut, cashew or palm oil; Nigeria has the comparative advantage in these produce and more and should explore it the same way the U.S. explored cranberry potential to create wealth,” he said. Also, Mr Abubakar Suleiman, Managing Director, Sterling Bank, said that achieving sustainable growth in the country was about the ability to reduce poverty, boost employment and improve citizen’s welfare. Suleiman, represented by Mr Shina Atilola, Divisional Head, Retail and Consumer Banking, Sterling Bank, said that any initiative or policy that did not lead to employment creation would not catalyse development.

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Farmers should embrace smart agriculture for Food Security

Experts in agriculture and climate change made the call in Abuja at an event put together to educate Nigerian youths on the need to embrace climate-smart agriculture to enhance capacity and support food security in Nigeria.

Most of Nigeria’s agricultural activities are rain fed and highly susceptible to climate vulnerability. farmers are being encouraged to embrace climate-smart agriculture in order to combat the waving effect of climate change on food security.

At a mock parliament put together by the fresh and young brains development initiative and the Open Society Initiative For West Africa, Osiwa, youth were encouraged to channel more energy into food production through climate-smart agriculture for better living and promote food security.

According to reports, sub-Saharan Africa faces the largest food insecurity in the world and Nigeria with its growing population may end up importing more than half of its food consumption, owing partly to climate-related activities and poor youth participation in agriculture.

The experts say climate-smart agriculture aims to enhance the capacity of agricultural systems to support food security, improve productivity and incomes from smallholder crop, livestock, fish and forest production will be key to achieving global food security over the next 20 years.

In Nigeria, climate change is emerging as the most serious threat to agriculture.

To address the challenge, the fresh and young brains development initiative in collaboration with the Open Society Initiative For West Africa, Osiwa, to educate and voice out a campaign for climate-smart agriculture.


FAO unveils 5-year strategic plan for agric in Nigeria

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has given a breakdown of its 5-year strategic Programming Framework for Nigeria (CPF), spanning between 2018 and 2022.

Suffyan Koroma, FAO Country Representative in Nigeria, said in a press statement in Abuja on Tuesday that the framework was to assist Federal Government develop its agriculture sector.

He listed some priority areas which included: Strengthening national food and nutrition security through enhanced nutrition sensitive and climate-smart food systems.

Others are: supporting appropriate and operationally effective agricultural policy and regulatory frameworks, supporting Nigeria’s Economic Diversification Agenda and the promotion of decent employment for youth and women in the agriculture value chains.

It also included improving the efficient and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems and enhancing disaster risk reduction, resilience building and emergency management towards strengthening the Humanitarian-Development Nexus.

He also said the framework would ensure efficient management of the country’s natural resources.

He also spelt out a set of medium-term support objectives and results as approved by the FAO’s Regional Office for Africa (RAF).

He said the areas of action were defined in consultation with government ministries, agencies and departments, as well as related stakeholders from academia, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and private sector.

He said FAO also considered the humanitarian needs of Nigeria, as contained in various development strategies the government had put in place.


FG distributes fertilisers, inputs to 4,671 farmers in Borno

The Federal Government, under its Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), on Thursday, distributed fertilisers, seeds and inputs to 4,671 farmers in Borno for 2019 cropping season.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme is a critical component of the Federal Government’s agricultural transformation agenda.

The programme is also designed to encourage rice production and processing to achieve self-sufficiency.

It aims at enhancing farmers’ access to fertilisers, seeds, inputs, promote enterprising skills, value addition and create market for the produce.

The programme is being implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in collaboration with Bank of Agriculture (BOA), Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC) and designated agricultural input dealers, otherwise called “private anchors’’.

Malam Muhammad Mustapha, the Manager, Northeast Commodity Association, one of the anchor’s clients, said that the farmers were provided with inputs to enable them engage in rice production.

Mustapha noted that each of the benefiting farmers received assorted fertilisers, seeds, water pump, knap sack sprayer and chemicals.

He said that the anchor company would also provide tractor services to the farmers to enable them till and plough their farmlands.

Mustapha explained that the beneficiaries included male and female farmers drawn from 19 local government areas of the state.

He listed some of the participating local government councils to include; Jere; Konduga, Chibok, Askira Uba, Hawul, Biu, Shani, Bayo, Kaga, and Mobbar.


FAO launches framework to support agriculture in Nigeria

The United Nations Food for Agriculture Organisation (UNFOA) has launched the Country Programme Framework (CPF) in Nigeria as part of the organisation’s efforts to promote agriculture in the country.

The launch took place on Tuesday at the Nicon Luxury Hotel in Abuja.

The CPF is a medium-term priority framework, derived from nationally defined priorities and objectives to be achieved over a five year period of the programming cycle.

The framework covers the main areas of FAO work in Nigeria, with the aims to achieve zero hunger and contribute to the attainment of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

Speaking at the launch, the FAO representative, Suffyan Koroma, said the framework will focus on food and nutrition security, support effective and operational framework, support Nigeria’s economic diversity and decent employment, and enhance disaster risk management in the country with resilience.

He said it aligns with the FAO strategic objectives of sustainable inclusive development growth.

He said the CPF preparation started from a formal request by the Nigerian government in 2017.

Mr Koroma said the framework also looks forward to helping in creating peace between farmers and herders, especially in Benue and Nassarawa states.

It also aims at improving the efficient and sustainable management of natural resources, he said.

Mr Koroma said the current CPF is building on the 2013- 2017 CPF by noting its achievements and learning from its challenges.

He listed the objectives of the framework as promoting school garden for better nutrition and learning skill, mainstreaming nutrition education in Agriculture, and learning extension and urban food system development.

The CPF will also offer support for appropriate and operationally effective agricultural policies.

Speaking at the event, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, said climate change has been a major issue for agriculture across the country.

He said beyond that climate change has been a danger to human inhabitation. He also noted the danger of tree falling across the country for firewood and for export.

He said part of the disappearance of the forest today is responsible for the drying up of the Lake Chad.

“Desertification is on its way to Nigeria so far we continue the cutting down of trees,” Mr Ogbeh said

He said the country also needs quality seeds that can endure high temperature and also give good yields.


Why Bank of Agriculture is Being Restructured – BPE

The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) said on Thursday that it has become imperative to restructure the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) with a view to substantially improve its operating framework and efficiency.
The Director General of BPE, Mr. Alex Okoh who stated this 
at the kick-off meeting for the recapitalisation of the Bank in Abuja, said the Bank had performed sub-optimally due to the myriad of challenges facing it since inception in 1972. 

A statement by BPE’s Head of Public Communications, Amina Othman quoted the DG as saying, “the process will lead to the privatisation of equity of the bank. We envisage that the Central Bank equity will be reduced to 20 per cent, Federal Ministry of Finance (incorporated) will be reduced to 20 per cent”. 
According to him, “the government agencies equity in the new bank will be a minority of 40 per cent. We will then invite private sector investors who will own 20 per cent and the remaining 40 per cent equity will be owned by farmers and farmers’ cooperatives”. 

Okoh further stated that the new strategy envisages that BoA will be transformed into a truly agriculture finance bank modeled along the lines of Agriculture Bank of China and Rabobank of the Netherlands, adding that upon its establishment in 1972 to serve as an agricultural and cooperative bank to provide services of a development finance institution, it was vested with the responsibility of providing low cost credit to small holder and commercial farmers. 

Lamented that the Bank had been unable to realise its  responsibilities due to its current structure, the DG stressed that the proposed restructuring and recapitalisation of the Bank seek to transform it strictly into an agricultural finance bank with functional branches in all the local government areas and major towns in Nigeria.

He said that the model was sure to  encourage farmers to form clusters of cooperatives and thrift societies throughout the six geo-political zones for the purpose of participating in the ownership of the Bank, adding that the model would fundamentally ensure that the BOA becomes a farmers’ bank owned by farmers.

On the sustainability of the strategy and attracting investment, the DG, explained that measures would be put in place to take non-performing credit facilities off the balance sheet and books of the Bank and possibly sold off to a factor agent. 

He said further that the measure is  to make the Bank attractive to investors and also attract cheap funding from multilateral development institutions and other institutional investors with a focus on agricultural financing.  

Okoh commended the Minister of Agriculture & Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh who doubles as the Chairman of the Steering Committee for the Project  for his passion and commitment to the development of agriculture in Nigeria.

He congratulated Lead Consortium-the Adviser for the transaction pointing out that upon conclusion, BoA would be placed  on a platform to optimise its potential to make positive impacts on the  nation’s natural endowments for arable farming.