Patrick Akinwuntan, managing director, Ecobank Nigeria, has said the Ecobank agribusiness summit was an initiative to create a common platform that brings together stakeholders in the agric value chain, namely producers, processors, logistics entrepreneurs, insurance practitioners and others, to think a better approach to agriculture sustainability for Nigeria.
The bank chief stated that Ecobank believed food security is critical to national security, just as it ensures the continuous survival of the country.
“Agriculture is not just a culture, it is a business. Historically, agriculture used to be the lead within the economy, before the advent of petroleum. Now, we understand that the long term sustainability of the economy can only come from agriculture, because of its ability to create employment for the teeming young population and its ability to integrate all the parts of the country. When it is agriculture, there is no north, west, south and east, it is all about where do I get the best item, best quality, best value.
“In addition, given the landscape in Nigeria, given the population within Nigeria, we are a natural market and so when you look at what the Government and the central bank has been promoting in the last four to five years, a lot of focus have been on supporting Agric as a means to reduce the import bill of Nigeria and ultimately increase the export revenues of Nigeria”, he said.
“Ecobank saw the opportunity that agriculture provides and we decided that working together on the policies provided by the Central Bank .We established this national agric summit as a platform to bring the entire ecosystem of the agricultural sector together to interface to get the best value for the growth of the sector in Nigeria.
Further, Mr Akinwuntan stated that Ecobank’s relevance to Africa would mean supporting growth in the mainstay of the continent’s economy, which is agriculture. “Agriculture ensures that our survival is guaranteed. Agric is available in every corner of Nigeria, be it fishery, to poultry, to arable farming . Be it Cocoa, maize, rice, cashew nuts, palm oil, or any of the Agric items that you know that is available in Nigeria and these can be produced on a higher scale” he stated.
Also speaking, Andrew Nevin, partner -West Africa Financial Services Leader and chief economist at PWC, said reshaping Nigeria’s agribusiness landscape will require integrating agriculture value chain to manufacturing, invest in agriculture infrastructure and mechanization, see agriculture as a business in the form of capacity building and education, and enhance crop yields and output. He said this calls for land reforms and integration of national and sub-national policies.
Nevin who spoke on the topic “Unlocking productivity and investment opportunities across Nigeria’s agribusiness value-chain”, also maintained that there was need for interventions to overcome agriculture financing challenges and risks in the area of capacity development, develop agricultural customized loan products that are relevant to farmers’ needs, de-risk through financial and entrepreneurship education; establish strong partnerships and alliances to promote investment in agriculture and deployment of high-end technology to enhance efficiency and convenience of access
He noted that the UN expects agricultural production to rise by 69% between 2010 and 2050 to meet the expected increase in demand. Farmers, he said are therefore required to start implementing advanced technological techniques to boost productivity.
The maiden Ecobank Agribusiness summit in partnership with Vanguard Newspapers had exhibitors and hundreds of participants from within and outside the country in attendance.