By Obinna Emelike (BUSINESSDAY)
In 2017, the Nigerian agriculture sector witnessed 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 FirstBank Agric Expo.
It was a first-of-its-kind initiative that afforded the bank the opportunity to aggregate top players in the agricultural sector under one roof for easy relationship establishment, as well as, enlighten customers and prospects alike about FirstBank’s readiness to support their Agricultural businesses.
The event, which was oversubscribed by 100 percent in its maiden edition because of its relevance, also positioned the bank as a thought leader in the agricultural financing space in the country. For leading that discourse and opening the agricultural financing space, the bank’s agric portfolio recorded a growth of N11.65billion as a direct impact.
Riding on the success of the maiden edition, the bank has gone ahead to further engage key policy influencers, agriculture service providers, primary producers, exporters and top players in the agric value chain, among others in the 2018 edition, as well as promising a better engagement in this year’s edition of the expo.
Considering the falling oil prices and the urgent need to diversify the economy, the FirstBank Agric Expo is imperative. Expressing his delight on FirstBank’s leading role at not just promoting Agriculture but diversifying the Nigerian economy, Adesola Adeduntan, CEO, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, sees opportunities beyond economic diversification in the non-oil sector, which agriculture leads. “As Nigeria expands opportunities in its non-oil sector, especially Agriculture, we remain committed to the growth of the agricultural sector 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 in mind that agriculture has potential to take millions of unemployed off the streets when the right investment are made and thoroughly coordinated.
So, the bank is using the FirstBank Agric Expo, which is now in its third edition to “build the agribusiness economy, 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 $22 billion annually to import food into the country.
But with sustained gains from the Agric Expo, more funds would be available to agric entrepreneurs to improve production, and reduce the high importation of food that has negatively impacted Nigeria’s Balance of Trade.
With more funding, the bank assured that Nigeria can be self-sufficient in producing things it has comparative advantage on, especially rice, the staple food, which can be grown across the country.
As well, improved funding in the agric sector will result in more entrepreneurs, more investments, more hands in the farms, more food produced, huge foreign exchange earnings from exportation, as well as, less crime in the country. Though the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report stated that the value of agricultural exports rose by 115.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, the country can double the value if agric entrepreneurs are financed and guided, which makes the First Bank Agric Expo very imperative.
As a continuous financier of credit worthy agro-allied businesses, the bank is rolling out the drums once again to hold the third edition of the agric expo. Like the previous editions, the expo will hold on August 30, 2019 at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Lagos with the theme, “Agricultural Value Chain – Spotlighting Opportunities 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 participants and sundry agribusiness practitioners abreast with new opportunities in the Agricultural industry.
Besides the plenary session, the expo will feature three masterclasses with in-depth analysis on 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, who will provide insight, as well as, share success 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.