Stories from Udo Onyeka, Lagos:
In a bid to support the Federal Government’s drive to reposition agriculture as the country’s main source of income, the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending and Union Bank have earmarked N10bn for agriculture financing in the 2018 farming season.
Speaking in Abuja at the launch of the NIRSAL scheme, Managing Director of NIRSAL, Aliyu Abdulhameed, said the programme was aimed at boosting agricultural productivity and modernization via increased lending to the sector.
According to him the NIRSAL-Union Bank partnership would cover NIRSAL-supported projects in livestock and crop production, agricultural mechanization, logistics and poultry.
He said under the terms of the partnership, NIRSAL would provide credit guarantees to cover up to 75 per cent of Union Bank loans for bankable agricultural projects, using its 300-million-dollar risk-sharing facility.
Abdulhameed said that the funds, if fully utilized, could create about one million direct jobs and many more indirect jobs, while boosting the incomes of rural farmers and complementing government’s efforts to drive inclusive economic growth through agriculture.
“This partnership is not only on making finance available to the relevant stakeholders but will also provide technical support for them through NIRSAL’s N60-million-dollar technical assistance facility.
“We will provide a wide range of support to improve agricultural productivity, teaching best agricultural production best practices and providing effective capacity building to both farmers and Union Bank officials at our own cost.
“We are doing all these to enable us to ensure maximum deployment of funds, efficient utilisation of the money and 100-per-cent recovery.
“But with NIRSAL, we hope to get 100-per-cent recovery and, therefore, complete the cycle back to the banks,” he said.
Abdulhameed also said that the scheme had been designed, not only to facilitate the beneficiaries’ access to finance but also to ensure that they succeeded and paid back the loan.
Group Managing Director of Union Bank, Emeka Emuwa noted that the initial N10-billion capital earmarked for the scheme would be expanded gradually as soon as milestones were achieved.
He said the partnership would boost agricultural productivity with the much-needed credit lines, which focuses on enhancing post-production, boosting capacity, aggregation and market expansion in order to cut post-harvest losses and provide market access for smallholder farmers.