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Heritage Bank set to boost agribusiness with rice farming

By Abimbola Fashakin, Lagos
Heritage Bank Plc has expressed its desire to venture into rice farming this year to ensure food sufficiency in the country.
Making the disclosure was the Group Head, Corporate Communications, Mr Fela Ibidapo in a statement made available to newsmen on Friday in Lagos.
The statement quoted the Group Head, Agriculture Finance, Heritage Bank, Mr Olugbenga Awe, as saying that the bank’s drive to support rice production was borne out of the conviction that agribusiness was profitable.
Awe said that the challenges facing rice production were because most farmlands were located in the rural areas with poor road network and electricity supply.
He said that majority were financially excluded with no access to banking services.
Awe said that Heritage Bank was effectively tackling the bottlenecks, since it had long identified the opportunities in agribusiness before the collapse of crude oil prices through its various programmes.
According to him, the bank will ensure by 2020 the production of 7.7million tonnes of milled rice or 10.8million tonnes of paddy rice at milling recovery ratio of 62 per cent.
On the bank’s involvement in Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) of the CBN, Awe said that the bank had strategically put in place measures to ensure contract agreements were met.
He said the bank had adherence to fair trade by making sure that farmers earned decent profit for their efforts, which was critical to the sustainability of the programmes.
Awe said the bank’s participation in the programme had paid off as it currently had a rich pool of farmers’ data to support grains production.
“The registered farmers in our database can easily be identified and trained with the support of extension services to plant grains as the season demands. This flexibility provides continuous cash flows to the famers and ensure that more farmers are enlisted to join the programme.
“In our quest to participate in the rice value-chain through the ABP, we supported hundreds of small holder farmers in various communities in Kaduna and Zamfara states,’’ he said.
Awe said that the prospect for rice production and agriculture was very bright, adding that “the sector is driving the next set of entrepreneurs’’.
He said, “We are committed to the development of the sector using appropriate technology and modern farm practices.’’
He said that Heritage Bank would continuously create opportunities for people to see agriculture as a business that could lift them out of poverty into a prosperous future.

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