Sterling Bank Plc on Wednesday launched a new product, Sterling Women and Youths in Agriculture Finance code, to provide low-cost financing at single-digit rates to young men and women entrepreneurs in the agribusiness value chain across the country.
Bukola Awosanya, the Group Head, Agric Finance and Solid Minerals Financing for Sterling Bank, said in a statement in Lagos that SWAY-AgFin was designed by the Bank in collaboration with MasterCard Foundation.
She said the facility, which aimed to grow agribusinesses in Nigeria with an overall focus to impact local production, improve employability for young entrepreneurs, and ultimately grow the economy, has a maximum tenor of two years.
Awosanya said the SWAY-AgFin was also available to entrepreneurs seeking to scale the output of their agribusiness offerings.
According to her, the opportunity will equip beneficiaries with the requisite knowledge and skills in financial management and good agricultural practices, while generating direct and indirect employment.
She also said the SWAY-AgFin offering was a testament of the Bank’s continued commitment to agribusiness financing, noting that Sterling Bank’s various interventions within the sector “have been made possible with the support of partners such as the MasterCard Foundation”.
She added: “SWAY AgFin has become imperative because the effect of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic has not only restricted access to sufficient and nutritious sources of food, but has also slowed down cash flow to farmers and food suppliers.
“There has also been a shortage of labour for production, harvest, and post-harvest activities. All of these have resulted in higher costs of food prices and disruptions in crop production cycles.
“The supply and distribution of agricultural inputs, such as improved seeds, herbicides, and fertilizers to rural farming communities have been severely hindered in the wake of the pandemic.
“Linkages between major cities in the various states in Nigeria have become difficult as harvested produce cannot reach markets and this has discouraged farmers from engaging in crop cultivation, leading to less production and shortages of staples.”
The Group Head said the product would help increase productivity in the agribusiness sector, while easing the devastating effects of the pandemic on the lives of youths and women.
Awosanya said MasterCard Foundation’s involvement underscored the commitment of the two organizations to the growth of critical sectors in the Nigerian economy.
She said: “The offering, therefore, targets youths and women who are involved in all levels in the agricultural value chain, inclusive of small-holder farmers who usually operate on one or two hectares, processors, input providers, and small-scale processors/SMEs whose businesses require cost-effective financing to help scale.”
She said the fund could be accessed on www.sterling.ng/swayagfin, stating that it was open to all, especially those who have keen interest in advancing agriculture by using technological innovations.