The Managing Director/Chief Executive, Keystone Bank Limited, Mr. Philip Ikeazor has disclosed that the sum of N300 million had been approved for primary producers in the agricultural value chain, particularly rice farmers, with plans to increase funding to N1 billion in the immediate future. He also said the bank would sustain current support for the agricultural initiatives of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as well as government’s efforts to diversify the economy through investment in the sector.
He listed some of the projects which had reached advanced stages of the bank’s financing to include 47 Rice Cooperative Farmers (500 members in Taraba State); 29 Rice Cooperative Farmers (296 members in Sokoto State); 28 Rice Cooperative Farmers (381 members in Zamfara State); and 10 Rice Cooperative Farmers (100 members in Anambra State).
Speaking in Abuja while delivering a lecture titled:” Keystone Bank Intervention in the Nigeria Rice Value Chain, at the NEPAD 3rd Nigeria Rice Investment Forum (NRIF 2016), he said the further had early financed 37 rice cooperatives under the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund in Niger State.
He said agriculture remained a veritable source of the country’s economic diversification strategy and would be accorded importance by the bank. Ikeazor urged farmers, processors, state governments and investors to approach the bank and access funds for their rice projects. Represented by the Executive Director, Northern Directorate, Keystone Bank, Mr. Shehu Mohammed, the MD said: “I am delighted to be invited to participate at this conference as one of the representatives of lending institutions and organizations involved in the promotion of increased lending and appropriate structuring of relevant financial instruments to the agricultural sector (especially rural, small scale farmers and processors) as it relates to rice value chain.”
He said: “The importance of rice to Nigeria food security must be acknowledged as it represents the highest in the import bill (about $2.5 billion annually) amongst food items being imported to the country. In recent times the Agric Industry has witnessed an upsurge in activities of farmers, processors and investors in the rice sector in Nigeria.
“This is due to the policy initiatives of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development and the Federal Government of Nigeria to address the inherent challenges militating against the production of this staple food locally. Keystone Bank Limited congratulates the apex bank for her success in strategically and systematically addressing the issues over such a short period with potential of turning Nigeria from predominant rice importer to a preferred exporter of rice.”
He said the bank recognsed the strategic importance of rice value chain and efforts of the federal government, CBN and the Ministry of Agriculture and other relevant agencies at promoting sustainable self-sufficiency in rice production in the country as part of determination to attain food security in the country. He said: “As a financial institution that is committed to promoting national development, we have identified the very significant place primary production and processing occupy in the rice value chain and have positioned ourselves to offer an array of value added services to local farmers and millers who are the key players in the rice value chain as part of our intervention programme in line with the Rice Anchor Borrowers Programme and the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS) initiatives of the CBN.”