Banks target N300bn for SMEs, agric sector

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With the intent to grow the Small and Mecium Enterprises, (SMEs) and the agriculture sector, the banking industry said it is targeting N300 billion to boost lending to these priority sectors noted for job creation.

Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele at the end of the 7th Annual Bankers Committee Retreat themed, “‘Creating an Enabling Environment for SME Growth’ said that the facilities would be for SMEs, and large scale farmers.

On agriculture, he said its value chain needed to be de-risked to allow banks to grant facilities to farmers to stimulate growth in the economy.

Emefiele said that the bankers agreed that de-risking those value chains in the agriculture would encourage large scale farming and boost productivity in the sector.

According to him, achieving this will increase lending to the sector, while the monetary and fiscal authorities must work together to improve local production.

He said that increased local agriculture products like rice, tomatoes, wheat, fish, sugar, among others, would reduce the demand for foreign exchange.

Emefiele said this would help to boost country’s foreign exchange reserves and by extension strenghten the naira.

The central boss said that banks believed that there was need to improve the level of infrastructure.

He said that the retreat, which allowed stakeholders to share ideas, also afforded them the opportunities to review the performances of the outgoing year of 2015 and set agenda for banking industry in 2016.

The CBN boss said that the retreat also gave the opportunity to exchange ideas with invited ministers about their agenda and plans.

He said that the banking industry would continue to support government’s effort to diversify the economy because of the ongoing challenges facing the global market.

“I must say that the Nigeria is not an exception given that today we are affected adversely by the drop in crude oil prices which in itself has adverse impact on nation’s revenue.

“We had extensive discussions on some of the previous outcomes of the bankers committee which have helped to increase lending to the manufacturing sector, facilitated finance to the power and aviation sectors.

“It has also helped to sensitise lending to the agriculture secture where we have seen lending increasing from as low as one per cent in 2010/ 2011 to as high four per cent in 2014/2015,” Emefiele said.

Those in attendance at the conference included the Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Raji Fashola and the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi.

Also in attendance were the Minister of Solid Minerals, Kayode Fayemi, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun,and chief executives of banks, Development Finance Institutions (DFIs), SME operators and those in agriculture and power sectors.

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