The Group Managing Director Mainstreet Bank Faith Tuedor-Matthews has described the current Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) of the Federal Government as a revolutionary initiative which has accelerated the nation’s quest for food security.
Speaking at the formal flag-off of the 2013/2014 Dry Season Farming Support Programme which held at the banquet Hall of the International Conference Centre Abuja, the bank Chief Executive acknowledged that the ATA initiative has further encouraged Nigerian banks to brace up to the challenge of lending to the agricultural sector.
Highlighting the experience of the banking industry prior to the introduction of the initiative, she noted that bank lending to the Agricultural sector was below 1 percent of total Bank lending, however within two years this figure has grown to N368bn which is a growth position of 4.29 percent. She further noted that the banking industry has set a target to grow lending in the Agricultural sector to 7 percent and subsequently to 10 percent by 2017
Sharing her industry experience of Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GESS) in the last two years, Faith Tuedor-Matthews noted that Total Bank lending under the GESS has grown from N4 Billion in 2012 – N20 Billion in 2013.
Through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development programme; the Nigerian Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Loans (NISRAL) the GESS initiative has been able to successfully mobilise fertilizer agro-dealers, farmers, suppliers, seed companies to create an effective distribution mechanism that eliminates middlemen and the attendant corruption which existed in the input distribution chain
Under the scheme, Mainstreet Bank lent N10bn to 30 Agro-dealers in 2013 and recorded zero default. She maintained that whilst previously the Bank would not deal with Agro-dealers because they lacked the structure to qualify for borrowing today the story is cheering as all the loans to the dealers are performing whilst through the scheme, over one million farmers have been reached and this translates to more jobs as a result of the additional hands who have been employed through this initiative.
She further maintained that following from the experience of Mainstreet Bank, many banks have now realized that lending to Agriculture is a viable business noting that there is great optimism that the target of N60bn lending to the GES programme will be met and even surpassed.
In her words, “Mr President, from our experience and the testimony of various stakeholders in the agricultural value chain, we affirm that the Agricultural Transformation programme is working.’’ Mainstreet Bank will continue to play a leading role to ensure that Nigeria attains its target in agriculture especially in stimulating the distribution of fertilizer and seeds to farmers under the GESS, which will in turn boost food production and create jobs across the country”.
Pledging further on the flag-off of the dry season support programme, , Faith Tuedor-Matthews further noted, ‘we will continue to support this initiative and following from success in the 2013 wet season farming, we are looking at growing our portfolio in 2014 to N20 Billion.’’
In his address whilst performing the launch, the President commended Mainstreet Bank for their role in rendering financial support to the federal government Agricultural programme through the GESS. He also praised various stakeholders in the Agricultural transformation value chain acknowledging that through the testimony of Nigerians he is further encouraged that indeed Agriculture holds the key to the economic prosperity and food security of Nigeria. He later pledged that his administration will make available N14 billion to support the 2014 dry season farming, assuring farmers that the Dry Farming Support Programme will be made a national policy to enhance the growth of farmers and ensure food security in the country.
Earlier in his opening address, the Hon Minster of Agriculture and Rural Development, Akinwumi Adesina had praised the President for his support of the Agriculture Transformation Agenda noting that the programme has enhanced food security for Nigerians as well as created many jobs especially amongst many Nigerians who were ordinarily not accessible under the former system.
The colourful event featured exhibitions, testimonials on the Agricultural Transformation Agenda from various state governors, fertilizer dealers, seed manufacturers and many others. The Vice President Namadi Sambo was also one of the guests at the launch.