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In line with commitment to grow the Nigerian economy through the revival of agric as a major catalyst, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in partnership with Unity Bank and the National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN), has flagged off distribution of seeds/inputs supplies to cotton farmers for the 2019 planting season nationwide.
The distribution of cotton inputs to farmers is part of Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), an agric development finance initiative of the CBN operated as an on-lending scheme with participating financial institutions packaged to channel financing support to beneficiaries in the sector.
Unity Bank’s collaboration with the CBN in flagging off this year’s input supplies distribution to cotton farmers to support wet season farming is in recognition of the bank’s established pivotal footprints in the sector, which has been well acclaimed in various awards received, such as the Presidential Award at the third anniversary of ABP, CBN award on sustainable transaction in agric, etc.
According to Usman Abdulqadir, executive director, corporate planning and compliance, Unity Bank, the CBN is partnering the bank on account of the lender’s strong participation in the ABP aimed at rebuilding customers confidence, alleviating poverty through food and cash crops production to make Nigeria self-sufficient in food and diversifying the economy.
The bank’s strategy for agric is deep rooted: “Unity Bank’s strategy is to bank the agricultural value chain. Therefore, we finance primary production, agricultural processing as well as commodity trading. We also support agricultural mechanisation, agricultural services and the procurement of inputs and implements.
“What is most noteworthy is that while other banks basically concentrate on lending to big value end of the agriculture value chain such as the flour and rice millers, Unity Bank does not leave out the smallholders farmers who are in primary production,” Abdulqadir said.
Corroborating the above, an analyst said the bank had brought in critical mass of farmers, hitherto unbanked, to benefit from various sources of funding, such as credit lines to input supplies and service providers, areas others may have considered unattractive.
According to the analyst, “Unity Bank’s involvement in the ABP has thus created huge social and economic impact on the income of households involving over 500,000 participating small-holder farmers, thereby boosting not only the Gross Domestic Product and reducing unemployment but also helping to end the perennial dissipation of scarce foreign exchange to import food.”
Anibe Achimugu, national president of NACOTAN, said the Unity Bank/CBN programme would assist the association in sourcing the right seeds to be delivered to cotton farmers at the right time.
He also said the association produced estimated seed cotton of between 60,000 and 80,000 tons in 2018, hoping that this figure will be surpassed in 2019.
Achimugu listed some of the challenges facing the association to include poor seeds, poor timing or delivery of input, inadequate extension services, poor training and guidance. All these he believes would be addressed through the participation with CBN and Unity Bank.
Unity Bank has successfully mainstreamed over 500,000 smallholder farmers, hitherto financially excluded, thereby supporting CBN’s financial inclusion initiatives.