Heritage Bank Plc asserted that adequate agricultural finance is critical in defining Nigeria’s trade competitiveness, which ensures sustainable agricultural systems, generates foreign exchange – a critical aspect which equips the financial sector to respond to changing market demands and respond to critical needs of the sector for global competitiveness.
Heritage Bank Plc Chief Executive George Oko-Oboh revealed this at the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria’s (CIBN) 15th Annual Banking and Finance Conference, titled: “Repositioning the Financial Services Industry for an Evolving Global Context” in Abuja.
He revealed that Heritage Bank has been at the forefront of agricultural value chain finance which has enhanced its competitiveness in the global market and helped boost local production, conserve scarce foreign currency and improve food security. , and ultimately to create hundreds of new jobs.
According to Oko-Oboh, the bank’s involvement in the sector dates back many years and it has always been at the forefront of ensuring overall growth and commodity development in Nigeria. For these feats, Heritage Bank disbursed the CBN’s N41 billion intervention in wheat production in Nigeria for commodity associations and anchor companies.
“We have continued to build business linkages between smallholder farmers and anchors/processors, create an ecosystem that drives value chain finance, improve smallholder farmers’ access to credit by developing a track record of credit through the program and many more.
“As a bank, we have partnered with CBN and other stakeholders such as the Wheat Growers Association of Nigeria, Wheat Growers, Processors and Traders Association of Nigeria, Institute Lake Chad Research Center and other development partners, Nigeria Flour Mills and several seed and other companies to support over 100,000 farmers in wheat production.
“In addition, Heritage Bank has also considered the added value of financial services and products flowing to and/or through value chain participants to address and alleviate constraints to growth that have distorted product financing, receivables financing, physical asset guarantee, risk mitigation products and financial enhancements,” the CEO said.
In addition, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc Chairman, Farouk Gumel, said Nigerian banks need to invest in modernizing agriculture, helping it to be more resilient, vibrant and better able to s to adapt for the banking sector to be competitive in the changing global environment. “Modernization means more than just technology. It is also about agricultural techniques, he said.
Gumel noted that “to reposition the industry in a glocal context, we also need to look more inward,” saying repositioning is not an option. It’s a necessity Nigeria has embarked on an agricultural renaissance over the past seven years. To be truly Glocal, we must dedicate the same resources and investments to rural-local customers as we have to global urban customers.
He agreed that local actors need to keep an eye on global events to stay in tune with international best practices, while asking that local/rural farmers are never forgotten.
CIBN Chairman/Chairman Dr. Ken Opara said the financial services industry must adapt to a much faster rate of change in the advancement of technology and innovation, saying that the services, products and technologies that were new and useful in the past won’t necessarily be so soon.
Opara said advances in technology and innovation are driving another wave of revolution that will change the landscape of the financial services industry more than ever.