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why we increased lending to farmers – MD, Zenith Bank

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer Zenith Bank Plc Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu has said that the bank is prioritising lending to the agricultural industry and other raw material suppliers in Nigeria.

Onyeagwu said companies that would-be leaders in the next five years would those, who would be sourcing their raw materials locally. Speaking in an interview with Bloomberg, Onyeagwu, said: “If you can get your raw materials here, you’re in business and it’s cheaper — your holding cost is cheaper, your freight cost is reduced.

“Nigeria’s second-biggest bank by market value is aiming to meet increased demand from businesses needing to source raw materials locally after plunging oil prices and lockdown measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus dried up foreign-currency inflows. It comes amid intensified efforts from authorities to encourage investment in agriculture and processing plants to help diversify the economy away from oil.

Many of Zenith’s customers want to invest in crop production or the processing industry, so they produce products they can sell to breweries, food and pharmaceutical companies,” he told Bloomberg.

According to Onyeagwu, Zenith Bank is encouraging customers to access funds from the central bank, which it matches with dedicated officials to ensure the projects they undertake are well executed, Bloomberg reported.

“As companies strive to meet the food requirements of the nation’s 200 million people, Nigeria could potentially become a non-oil exporter over the medium- to long-term.” Apart from Zenith Bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, also offers loans to farmers through commercial banks at preferential rates to stimulate the development of the industry and has also banned imports on dozens of goods from soap and cement to milk and rice.

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