By Betty Amihere
The Kebbi State Governor and Chairman, Presidential Task Force Committee on Rice and Wheat Production, Atiku Bagudu, has appealed to Nigerian commercial banks to increase their loan portfolio to the agricultural sector, saying investing in agriculture is not as risky as other sectors that benefit up to 90 per cent loan facilities.
Bagudu also commended Sterling Bank for being the only bank who has dedicated 10 percent of its total loan portfolio to the agricultural sector.
The Governor made the appeal while speaking at the 2019 Agriculture Summit Africa, a two day summit organised by Sterling Bank in collaboration with the World Bank and other stakeholders.
Bagudu expressed concern that besides Sterling Bank,, other commercial banks only dedicate one or two per cent of their total loan portfolio to the sector.
According to Bagudu, who is also the Vice Chairman, National Food Security Council, commercial banks believe that it is risky investing in agriculture, “not knowing that it is the safest sector to invest in.”
He commended Sterling Bank and other stakeholders for their support to the Federal Government in making the desire for agriculture in the country a reality.
Bagudu noted that if agriculture was only one or two per cent of a bank’s portfolio, the staff of such banks may follow same priority, with little chance for someone in the agriculture department having the opportunity to head such bank.
“It is important, we put pressure to improve loan portfolio in agriculture and encourage banks and other major stakeholders to put their best brains in agriculture.
“Many commercial banks do not realise that lending to agricultural sector will ensure safer banking and more prosperous society.
“Over the last three years I have interacted with Sterling Bank and it shows how much there is to do, how much value addition is there to achieve and how much money there is to make in the sector.
“We have good brains that can help us figure out how to fund agriculture and the evidence is out there that agriculture is not as risky as those sectors that benefit up to 90 per cent loans from banks,” he said.
He congratulated Sterling Bank for organising the event, saying he was at the 2018 years summit and it was beneficial to both the Federal and state governments.
The governor commended President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osibanjo for their commitment to agricultural development.
He stressed that Nigerians had seen a federal government that was willing to engage stakeholders at all levels.
According to him, some of the evidences that the present government has agriculture at heart are, President Muhammadu Buhari chairing the Food Security Council and playing host to major stakeholders in the sector.
He also listed the Presidential Task Force and the Fertiliser Initiative that had helped with adequate and qualitative fertilizer.
He equally stated that about N174 billion had been invested in Anchor Borrowers Programme since inception, adding that it had benefitted so many farmers and stakeholders in the agriculture value chain in the country.
The governor said if properly harnessed, the sector had the capacity of helping in the recovery of Nigeria from recession, adding that “while other sectors were doing one per cent during recession in the country, agriculture was making up to 3 per cent.
“Agriculture is where to make money but there must be collaboration to support stakeholder to compete internationally and account and financial engineering that will help them compare with participants in other countries and compete favourably.
“The Food and Agriculture organisation. 2018 report states that Nigeria has 1.6 trillion dollars agriculture value trade and has been growing annually on 6 per cent level from 2000 to 2018.
“If anyone wants to invest anywhere it has to be in agriculture because it has the capacity to create wealth, ensure food security, employment opportunity and national development.
“We cannot afford to be left behind. We should think about it the Sterling Bank way.”
He called Policy makers to be alert to activities in the international markets to come up with policies that would place the country at an advantage globally, noting that there were so many distortions caused by wealthy countries to continue to control the market.
The summit, with the theme, “Agriculture: Your Piece of the Trillion-Dollar Economy” had about 2000 participants, with representatives from the US and over 30 participants from other African countries among others.
It is a platform dedicated to creating a convergence of private and public sector players, investors and agriculture practitioners across the entire value chain