- Managing Director of Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan
For an increased credit to the agricultural sector, which will assist Nigeria in its food self-sufficiency drive, Ecobank Nigeria Ltd is partnering the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk-Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), the bank’s Head of Agric Business Department, Mojisola Oguntoyinbo, said in Lagos.
The other development partners in the programme billed to last for the next two to three years include the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN), among others. Some of them will be guaranteeing the loans that Ecobank will grant Nigerian farmers and processors.
According to Oguntoyinbo, “separately, we are exploring partnership across the globe to support cheaper lines of credit to players in the industry through export credit agencies.
“The bank plans to increase loan portfolio to the agricultural sector by N70 billion within the next two to three years and the lender will hold an agribusiness summit next month, themed, ‘Unlocking Productivity and Investment Opportunities Across Nigeria’s Agribusiness Value Chain.’
“It will target all players in all value-chains of the sector (input suppliers, crop and livestock producers, processors and commodity exporters, among others).
She noted that “banks in Africa’s biggest oil producer are increasing lending to the agricultural industry amid a push by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to diversify the economy from crude oil.”
Likewise, “the Central Bank of Nigeria has directed banks to maintain a minimum loan-to-deposit ratio of 65 per cent or face penalties, while supporting government’s drive for sufficiency in local food production to curb imports.”
Oguntoyinbo explained that while Ecobank has a loan-to-deposit ratio of over 65 per cent in Nigeria, it targets agriculture to boost its “return on investment.”
She added: “Small and medium enterprises are growing rapidly in the agricultural sector and there are opportunities there, which we desire to nurture for growth and development.”