BY OBINNA EMELIKE (BUSINESSDAY)
In 2017, the Nigerian agriculture sector witnessed are a revolutionary discourse on the economic benefits of sustainable agriculture value-chain as an alternative source of economic development and foreign exchange with the launch of First Bank Agric Expo.
It was a first-of-its-kind initiative that afforded the bank the opportunity to aggregate top players in theagricultural sector under one rooffor easy relationship establishment,as well as, enlighten customers andprospects alike about FirstBank’sreadiness to support their Agriculturalbusinesses.
The event, which was oversubscribedby 100 percent in itsmaiden edition because of its relevance, also positioned the bank asa thoughtleader in the agriculturalfinancing space in the country.For leading that discourse and opening the agricultural financing space, the bank’s agric portfolio recorded a growth of N11.65billionas a direct impact.
Riding on the success of themaiden edition, the bank has goneahead to further engage key policyinfluencers, agriculture serviceproviders, primary producers, exportersand top players in the agric value chain, among others in the2018 edition, as well as promisinga better engagement in this year’sedition of the expo.
Considering the falling oil pricesand the urgent need to diversify the economy, the First Bank Agric Expo is imperative.Expressing his delight on FirstBank’s leading role at not just promotingAgriculture but diversifyingthe Nigerian economy,Adesola Adeduntan, CEO, FirstBank of Nigeria Limited, sees opportunitiesbeyond economic diversificationin the non-oil sector,which agriculture leads.“As Nigeria expands opportunitiesin its non-oil sector, especiallyAgriculture, we remain committedto the growth of the agriculturalsector and its contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product”, the CEO said.
Also, the bank is venturing into the Agric financing space in order to promote entrepreneurship and employment opportunities bearing inmind that agriculture has potential to take millions of unemployed offthe streets when the right investment are made and thoroughlycoordinated.
So, the bank is using the First Bank Agric Expo, which is now in its thirdedition to “build the agribusinesseconomy, which is capable of delivering sustained prosperity by meeting domestic food security goals, generating exports, supporting sustainable income and creating employment opportunities”, Adeduntan assured.
Ironically, Nigeria, according to Audu Ogbeh, former Minister of Agriculture, spends about $22billion annually to import food intothe country.
But with sustained gains fromthe Agric Expo, more funds would be available to agric entrepreneurs to improve production, and reducethe high importation of food thathas negatively impacted Nigeria’sBalance of Trade.
With more funding, the bankassured that Nigeria can be self-sufficientin producing things ithas comparative advantage on, especiallyrice, the staple food, whichcan be grown across the country.
As well, improved funding in the agric sector will result in moreentrepreneurs, more investments,more hands in the farms, more foodproduced, huge foreign exchangeearnings from exportation, as wellas, less crime in the country.Though the National Bureau ofStatistics (NBS) report stated thatthe value of agricultural exportsrose by 115.1 percent in the fourthquarter of 2018, the country candouble the value if agric entrepreneurs are financed and guided, which makes the First Bank AgricExpo very imperative.
As a continuous financier of credit worthy agro-allied businesses, the bank is rolling out the drumsonce again to hold the third edition of the agric expo. Like the previouseditions, the expo will hold on August30, 2019 at the Eko Hotel andSuites, Lagos with the theme, “AgriculturalValue Chain – SpotlightingOpportunities and Managing Risks”and would have Professor Benedict Oramah, president, AFREXIM Bank, as the keynote speaker.
It will host over 600 delegates and over 60 exhibitors who will display the latest technology in farm equipment, tools and machineries, as well as, packaged finished agricultural produce, logistics and supply, thereby keeping the participantsand sundry agribusiness practitioners abreast with newopportunities in the Agriculturalindustry.
Besides the plenary session, the expo will feature three masterclasses with an in-depth analysis of specific areas of Agribusiness, facilitated by enterprising Subject Matter Experts(SMEs).The masterclass facilitators include; Leonard Anyanwu, Group Executive Director, Saro International Limited; Segun Ogunwale, Team Lead, Kominity Digital and Bamidele Ayemibo, Managing Director, 3T Impex Trade Centre, whowill provide insight, as well as, sharesuccess stories and experiences.
For the Agric entrepreneur looking to grow your business, there are many reasons to be at the expo as FirstBank has a large base of agribusiness clients across Nigeria who you will likely meet.