Heritage Bank Plc, in Lagos, at the weekend, signed a N232 million pilot phase of out-growers agreement with Biase Plantations Limited (BPL), and its joint venture partner, PZ Wilmar Limited.
The move is expected to support plans to restore Nigeria’s lost glory in the agricultural sector and reposition the country as the highest oil palm producer in the world.
The pact, sealed at the bank’s headquarters in Lagos, at the weekend, saw the Executive Director, Business Banking, Jude Monye, and Executive Director, Retail and SME Bank, Mrs. Adaeze Udensi, sign on behalf of the bank, while the General Manager of BPL, Ahmad Mustaffa Goh, signed on behalf of his company.
The bank’s Chief Executive Officer, Ifie Sekibo, who was represented by Monye, said the need for the partnership became imperative in view of the importance of agriculture to Nigeria’s sustainable development.
Sekibo said the initiative will support government’s efforts towards diversifying the aggregate economy, and assured Biase Plantations that Heritage Bank would not relent in giving it the necessary financial and investment advisory support required for the success of the agricultural scheme in different parts of Nigeria.
On behalf of his company, Goh said: “Today marks a milestone in the actualisation of a long dream by Biase Plantations Limited. It has always been our priority to improve the socio-economic status of our landlord communities by developing an out-growers scheme that will build the resilience of local farmers to changing agricultural trend.”
He added that the agreement between BPL and Heritage Bank is a first of its kind in Nigeria, and a readiness of the bank to partner and grow with the vision of the Company.
According to him, the out growers’ scheme is targeted at developing a sustainable small holder’s scheme, which will eventually increase the product supply.
The Group Head, Agriculture Finance and Export of the bank, Olugbenga Awe, explained that the pilot scheme covers 45 farmers, grouped into four co-operative societies with a land mass of 150 hectares, and the funds to be administered is from BPL.
He said Heritage Bank will leverage its expertise in agribusiness to organise the out growers, and administer the fund bearing in mind the peculiarity of oil palm as a cash crop with long gestation period.
He also said the programme will ensure financial inclusion, and empower the farmers, create market access for them and increase their yield through trainings on sustainability and good agricultural practices.
PZ Wilmar Limited is a joint venture between PZ Cussons International, UK, and Wilmar International Limited Singapore.
In Nigeria, Wilmar is involved in oil palm cultivation with a total land hectare of 26,500 located in Akamkpa, Biase, Odukpani, and Akpabuyo local government areas of Cross River State.
Other Wilmar’s business activities globally include oilseed crushing, edible oil refining, sugar milling and refining, specialty fat, oleo chemical, biodiesel and fertiliser manufacturing and grain processing.