NIGERIA – Ecobank Nigeria Limited has said that it is partnering with financial institutions in Nigeria to double the amount of credit it provides to the agricultural sector over the next two/three years.

The financial institutions in partnership with Ecobank Nigeria are: Incentive-based Risk-Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, United States Agency for International Development, Development Bank of Nigeria and other developmental partners.

In a statement, the head of Agric Business Department , Ecobank Nigeria, Mojisola Oguntoyinbo, said some of the partners will be providing guarantee on loans granted by Ecobank to Nigerian farmers and processors.

She also said that the bank plans to increase loan portfolio to the agricultural sector by US$193.09 billion (N70bn) within the next two to three years.

Ms Oguntoyinbo further noted that Ecobank will hold an agribusiness summit next month themed – “Unlocking productivity and investment opportunities across Nigeria’s agribusiness value chain.”

According to her, the Summit would target all players in the agricultural value-chain including input suppliers, crop and livestock producers, processors, commodity exporters among others.

The statement from Ecobank noted that banks in Africa’s biggest oil producer were increasing their lending to the agricultural industry amid a push by the Federal Government to diversify the economy away from crude.

The Central Bank of Nigeria has directed banks to maintain a minimum loan-to-deposit ratio of 65 per cent or face penalties.

They are required to meet these requirement while supporting the government’s drive to produce more food locally and curb imports.

Ms Oguntoyinbo said, “While Ecobank has a loan-to-deposit ratio of more than 65 per cent in Nigeria, it is targeting agriculture to boost its return on investment.”

She said small and medium enterprises were growing rapidly in the agricultural sector and there were opportunities there, which the bank desired to nurture for growth and development.

Ecobank currently operates a consolidated on-line, real time branch network in over 600 locations across the country.

The Bank has over the years been performing credibly well financially with a profit before tax of N27.5billion (about US$75.86 million) representing a 34.8% growth over the profit before tax of N20.4 billion (about US$56.27 million) recorded in 2017.

As at 2018, the bank’s net assets amounted to N1.957 trillion (about US$5.43 billion), confirming the banks position as one of the top 5 largest lenders in Nigeria.