Farmers are in for good times – courtesy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and commercial banks which have agreed to grant N300 billion loans to the agricultural sector next year.
CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, who is also the Bankers’ Committee chair, broke the news at the weekend. He said the committee’s plan was to get banks to use some of their liquidity to grant new loans to the agricultural sector and its value-chains. It was at the closing of the committee’s seventh retreat in Lagos.
The CBN boss said although there were other intervention funds in the agricultural sectors, which have been substantially disbursed, the N300 billion is a new lending plan. It involves getting the banks to use some of their liquidity to fund agriculture.
“That is why we are talking about removing risk elements along the value-chain, so that banks can lend more to the agric sector. This is a new initiative, and we believe that based on the need to de-risk the value-chain, the loans will be repaid, and jobs will be created for the people,” he said.
Emefiele said the Bankers’ Committee also felt that monetary and fiscal authorities must work together in collaborative manner to achieve the objective of improving local production of specific agricultural products, such as rice, tomatoes, fish and sugar among others.
Such practice, he said, would create reduction in demand for foreign exchange that will help conserve foreign reserves and, by extension, strengthen the local currency.
“We agreed to increase lending to the agricultural sector. Banks know that there is need to improve the level of infrastructure in various sectors, for instance, build more FADAMA roads, provide more power in the various sectors of agriculture, build more silos and warehouses to receive final produce so that products don’t get destroyed right at the farms,” he said.
The FADAMA roads, the CBN chief said, will make it easier for goods to be transported from the local communities to areas where they can be sold for the benefit of the farmers.
“Banks, therefore, set a target to boost agricultural lending, not only to Small and Medium Enterprises, but also to large scale farming and companies by up to about N300 billion in 2016. The banks realised that there is a need to have a paradigm shift, in the feeling that SMEs are a danger sector to lend money,” he said.
Emefiele said lenders had recognised that the Bank Verification Number (BVN) will assist in creating a pool of SMEs loans in the country, and have agreed on the need to empower SMEs through capacity building skills, such as record keeping, understanding how to run their businesses to make them more bankable.
“Banks agreed to support all efforts of government to boost employment for young graduates. The banks also identified power, transportation and other infrastructure as strong enablers and drivers of growth in the economy that the banks will try as much as possible to play their parts to support financing of power and transportation projects,” he said.
Emefiele said that all hands must be on deck, not just on the part of monetary authorities, but from the fiscal authorities to boost power, transportation for the banks to achieve the goals of improving the economy.
“The Bankers’ Committee is geared to support the efforts of government to create employment and support government’s efforts to diversify away from oil, support the efforts of the ministers of agriculture, power and transportation as well as solid minerals and finance to achieve the objectives of government in 2016,” he said.
Source: The Nation Nigeria