Heritage Bank Plc in partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has set up plans to disburse N41billion to farmers from 14 states for the expansion of wheat production project.
The Bank, however, will register the wheat farmers with the Lagos Commodities and Futures Exchange (LCFE) for successful disbursement, as the farmers are expected to cover about 111, 025 Hectares of land to attain huge milestones in wheat production.
Meanwhile, being the pioneer Bank to finance the first ever large scale rain-fed wheat production in Nigeria and also a participating financial institution (PFI) under CBN’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme scheme, Heritage Bank has taken adequate steps to create an enabling environment for sustainable growth in wheat production; thereby partnering with LCFE for all value-chain stakeholders to interact and trade ownership titles to specific quantities of wheat by registering members for their clients on the commodity exchange platform.
Speaking at the media briefing engagement with the pressmen, the MD/CEO of Heritage Bank, Ifie Sekibo stated that the partnership is basically to consummate Wheat Seed Multiplication Project under the CBN’s Brown Revolution Initiative, in order to ensure due diligence on loan administration, monitoring and recovery, which would bring about increase in the domestic production of wheat and close the wide supply gap in the Nigerian agricultural space.
Narrating some of the feats achieved, Sekibo who was represented by the Divisional Head, Agribusiness, Natural Resources & Project Development, Heritage Bank, Olugbenga Awe said that as a bank it partnered with CBN to ensure wheat planting on wet and dry seasons.
What we want to achieve is to end importation of seeds and make Nigeria self-sufficient in wheat production.
“We are working with about 30 firms focusing only on seed production and also working with CBN to make sure we register all farmers. We believe working with LCFE will move Nigerian farmers from informal approach to a structured approach”, he said.
He further explained that whilst riding on the success of the wet season, “we decided to focus on the dry season which comes naturally to our people. As a bank, we are working on two things; one is to ensure the continuous multiplication of seeds and the other is to focus on the grains.
Sekibo affirmed that the scheme would help reduce the nation’s food import bill by increasing wheat production, create market linkages between smallholders farmers and Anchors/Processors, create an ecosystem that drives value chain financing, improve access to credit by the smallholder farmers by developing credit history through the scheme and many more.
Former Executive Director of Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), Dr. Oluwasina Olabanji commended Heritage Bank for its efforts in reducing wheat importation and saving the country from the $2 billion spent annually on the importation of wheat.
He called on other banks to emulate the lender in efforts to achieving wheat sufficiency in the country.
“If this money is saved it could be used for infrastructural development. It is true that there are a lot of linkages not only on financial institutions but also in the value chain, these linkages have been molded together with the intervention of Central Bank of Nigeria and Heritage Bank,” he said.
He explained that the CBN and Heritage Bank’s intervention have become critical due to the high demand for wheat in Nigeria and the inability to meet that demand.
Speaking also, the Managing Director, LCFE, Akinsola Akeredolu-Ale, commended the CBN and Heritage Bank for their support, which have leveraged Nigeria to be on the right track for self-sufficiency in food production.
He said the commodity exchange in partnership with Heritage Bank would provide an enabling environment for farmers, warehouse owners, commodity middle men and commodity merchants, to be able to trade Wheat.
He noted that LCFE have created a platform that enhances liquidity in the commodity market, enhances the revenue base of the country and enables commodity traders to manage risk.