In an effort to bolster financial support for the burgeoning agribusiness sector in Ghana, GIRSAL organized a transformative four-day study tour to Kenya. This initiative brought together 21 senior officials from Ghanaian financial institutions including Development Bank Ghana, CBG, GCB Bank, CalBank, CBG, ABSA, Fidelity Comprising 15 senior executives and six managers and officers, the mission was to reshape their perspective on agriculture and encourage increased lending to agribusinesses.
The focal point of this educational journey was the renowned VegPro Group in Kenya, a leading agribusiness enterprise celebrated for its remarkable success in producing, processing, and exporting vegetables, fruits, and flowers to global markets such as the UK, Europe, and parts of Asia.
Supported by the Development Bank Ghana (DBG), this study tour aimed to equip Ghanaian financial leaders with practical insights into large-scale agribusiness operations, financing strategies, and the immense potential of commercial farming. It was designed to challenge the prevailing misconception that agriculture is inherently risky for bankers and to provide a firsthand view of the achievements of thriving agribusinesses.
The Significance of the Study Tour
GIRSAL recognized that while significant efforts have been made to train mid-level staff in financial institutions to appreciate the agricultural sector, challenges in accessing financing for agribusinesses persist. The decision to organize this study tour stemmed from the realization that key decision-makers responsible for loan approvals had not benefited from such training, resulting in limited approval rates for agricultural loans. Therefore, the tour sought to bridge this knowledge gap by exposing banking leaders to successful agribusiness models like VegPro Group.
Exploring VegPro Group’s Operations
The study tour was an immersive experience that provided participants with a deeper understanding of VegPro’s operations and business model. It encompassed visits to processing and packaging facilities, logistics and cargo handling unit, farms, and interaction with VegPro’s founder. These experiences provided participants with invaluable knowledge about large-scale commercial agriculture operations.
The tour’s first stop was the processing and packaging facilities, including VegPro’s logistics and freight handling subsidiary, Freight Wings Ltd, which demonstrated stringent procedures employed in the preparation and processing of vegetables and fruits for export. Additionally, they explored VegPro’s 1000-hectare Gorge Farm in Naivasha, the source of all fresh produce, where they witnessed the meticulous agricultural practices employed.
The team also had the privilege of visiting VegPro’s research and development trial farms, where they observed cutting-edge agronomic methods and the pursuit of optimal crop yields. Furthermore, they explored the innovative biogas power plant, a groundbreaking initiative capable of generating up to 3.4 megawatts of power from waste materials, contributing to environmental sustainability and energy self-sufficiency.
Insights from the Tour
The study tour, facilitated by GIRSAL, unveiled a wealth of insights for the participants. During their visit to VegPro, they gained an understanding of the potential opportunities and associated risks in agribusiness. The CEO of VegPro, Mr. Bharat Patel, emphasized the importance of reevaluating financing products for farmers considering the high interest rates and currency exchange fluctuations that challenge the industry. Mr. Patel shared VegPro’s journey, from a vegetable aggregation and exporting company to its expansion through backward vertical integration, which encompassed various facets, including vegetable production, processing, packaging, and involvement in flowers, seed breeding, and produce marketing. He also stressed the challenges inherent in agribusiness, particularly its vulnerability to external factors like climate change, beyond the control of agribusiness owners.
Participants were impressed by the achievements of VegPro and the opportunities within the sector. Mr. Philip Owiredu, Managing Director of CalBank, stressed the need for banks to comprehend the relevance of agriculture throughout the value chain and collaborate with agribusinesses for mutual growth.
The Managing Director of the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB), Mr. Alhassan Tali Yakubu, acknowledged the need to partner with GIRSAL to further de-risk the sector for better financing.
Mr. Atta Gyan Yeboah, Deputy Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, highlighted the potential for banks to diversify their investment portfolios by financing agriculture.
GIRSAL’s agribusiness study tours initiative is a component of the company’s broader Technical Assistance Facility and is designed to reshape the perspectives of financial institutions, encouraging them to increase their lending appetite for agribusinesses. This initiative offers financial institutions a unique opportunity to observe the operational intricacies of thriving agribusiness enterprises, both within Ghana and abroad, and facilitates face-to-face interactions with agribusiness management, fostering the exchange of knowledge and experiences.