By Udo Onyeka :
Heritage Bank Plc said it is set to restore Nigeria’s lost glory in the agricultural sector by repositioning the country as the highest oil palm producer in the world with recent signing of N232million Pilot phase of Out-growers Agreement with Biase Plantations Limited (BPL) and its joint venture partner, PZ Wilmar Limited.
The pact, sealed at the bank’s Headquarters, weekend, was witnessed by the Managing Director of Heritage Bank, Mr.Ifie Sekibo, represented by Mr. Jude Monye, Executive Director, Business Banking and; Mrs. Adaeze Udensi, Executive Director, Retail & SME Bank signing on behalf of the bank while Mr. Ahmad Mustaffa Goh, General Manager with BPL signed on behalf of his company.
Speaking at the occasion, Sekibo said the need for the partnership became imperative in view of the importance of agriculture to the sustainable development of Nigeria. He said the initiative was taken to support the effort by the government towards diversifying the aggregate economy.
He assured the management of Biase Plantations Limited that Heritage Bank would not relent in giving the necessary financial and investment advisory support required for the success of the agricultural scheme in different parts of the country, adding that the policy thrust of the present Federal Government is about economic development and diversification.
On Behalf of Biase Plantations Limited, Mr. Goh said, “today marks a milestone in the actualization of a long dream by Biase Plantations Limited. It has always been our priority to improve the socio-economic status of our landlord communities by developing an out-growers scheme that will build the resilience of local farmers to changing agricultural trend. “He added that the agreement between BPL and Heritage Bank Plc was first of its kind in Nigeria, remarking that they see this as readiness on the part of the bank to partner and grow with the vision of the Company.
According to him, the out growers’ scheme is targeted at developing a sustainable small holder’s scheme which will eventually increase the product supply.
Group Head, Agric Finance & Export of Heritage Bank, Olugbenga Awe explained that the pilot scheme covers 45 farmers grouped into 4 co-operatives Society with a land mass of 150 hectares and the funds to be administered is from BPL.
Specifically, he stated that Heritage Bank will leverage its expertise in agribusiness to organise the outgrowers and administer the fund bearing in mind the peculiarity of Oil Palm as a cash crop with long gestation period. He also mentioned that the programme will ensure financial inclusion and empower the farmers, create market access for the farmers and increase their yield through trainings on sustainability and good agricultural practices.
PZ Wilmar Ltd is a joint venture between PZ Cussons International, UK and Wilmar International Ltd, Singapore. In Nigeria, Wilmar is involved in oil palm cultivation with a total land hectare of 26,500
located in Akamkpa, Biase, Odukpani and Akpabuyo local government areas of Cross River State.