The collaboration between the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and Heritage Bank PLC has facilitated a N2 billion long term facility to aquaculture businesses under the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS), to Triton Aqua Africa Ltd (TAAL).
TAAL, known as Triton Farm, accessed the CACS through Heritage Bank, which it used to set up aquaculture businesses; nursery/hatchery for the production of fingerlings and brood stock in Ikeja, Lagos State, and earthen ponds for catfish and tilapia in Asejire, Iwo and Gambari towns in Oyo State.
The company explained that its strategy is to embrace backward integration through production of fish locally and reducing importation of frozen fish as well as assisting small scale farms by producing quality breed fingerlings.
The minister of state for agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, who visited the farm, commended the management for the initiative adding that the CBN and Heritage Banks’ financial support to the company’s achievement was fundamental as investment in food security is probably the most profitable venture.
He, revealed that Nigeria has a deficit of over two million metric tonnes of poultry produce and over three million metric tonnes deficit in fish farming products, adding that the agro-production deficits show huge investment potential in the sector.
The minister emphasised the need for banks to finance more agricultural projects than trading, oil and gas etc., as the future is highly dependent on agriculture.
The group head, Agric Finance of Heritage Bank, Olugbenga Awe, stated that the partnership between the bank and Triton Farm’s local production will conserve scarce foreign exchange and enhance food security.
“Nigeria’s current demand capacity for fish is estimated at 2.7 million metric tonnes and the country currently produces 800,000 metric tonnes. Triton is now producing 25,000 metric tonnes and with them on board, about 25,000 metric tonnes capacity will be added to our current production, the company’s projection is to reach 100,000 metric tonnes in five years,” he said.
Awe stressed that Heritage Bank’s support for small scale enterprises is well known and “most of these SMEs play in the agric sector.”
According to him, the bank sees agriculture as one of the programmes that can empower individuals and communities in terms of creating wealth from the soil and through the entire value-chain, using value addition and industrialisation.
He further disclosed: “We have supported large corporates such as Triton in expanding their capacity and boosting import substitution, we have also supported exporters that export commodities or processed goods which ultimately conserve scarce FX and enhance our balance of trade.
“We are also focused on small holder farmers as we currently support thousands of farmers in Kaduna and Zamfara States in rice and soybeans production under the Anchor Borrowers Programme. We are also targeting the youth that are interested in agriculture through our partnership with CBN on Youth Innovative Entrepreneurship Development Programme.”
In his remarks, the chairman, Triton Group, Ashvin Samtani, said the farm was fully integrated in aquaculture, poultry and crop production and is a platform to create employment for teeming youth.
“Triton Farm is designed to train youth in agriculture and create employment, as well as generate wealth. This is the only farm in the whole region that is fully integrated in aquaculture, poultry and crop production,” he affirmed.