Agric investment through digital platforms is quickly becoming an alternative means of income for many Nigerians. With its increasing popularity comes an increasing expectation of these platforms to fulfil their promises of return on investments. Thrive Agric has, in recent times been accused of falling very short of their promise.
According to certain investors, the agric investment platform has failed to pay up investments whose maturity periods range from a few days ago to four months ago. These investments are mainly in the poultry category.
Sandra, a Thrive Agric investor who spoke with Technext said she invested in the poultry farm but upon maturation, the company has refused to pay her returns.
“I invested in them in March this year on poultry farm for 6 months,” she said. “My due date was yesterday. They did not send any email explaining their challenge. When I asked through their WhatsApp page, they responded that they are having meeting with their offtakers yesterday and will communicate later on the modalities of our payment.”Sandra
Another investor said he has sent out countless emails to Thrive Agric since May when his payout was due but hasn’t received a single response. This, according to the investor, calls to question the sensitivity of the platform and how little it thinks of its investors.
Sandra on her part said she doesn’t believe the story about the off-takers because people who invested through Piggyvest have been paid. So if Thrive Agric doesn’t need to wait for off-takers before offsetting Piggyvest’s returns why does it need to wait for off-takers before offsetting hers?
Thrive Agric responds
But Thrive Agric has taken its time to address the several issues surrounding non-payment, trust and investors’ unhappiness. While expressing its apologies in a chat with Technext, a spokesperson for the platform said a series of adverse developments led to Thrive Agric’s inability to meet up with its obligations.
“We’ve done Thrive Agric for 3 years and in that time frame, we’ve never had to owe any customer. That’s specifically because business was doing well.Thrive Agric
The company said it began the year on a positive note with a plan to fund 250,000 farmers by the end of the year. This is up from only 25,000 funded at the beginning of the year. Sadly, business took a negative turn after it sold its largest offtake for poultry in March but couldn’t get the payment for it.
“In April however, business started to slow down for our partners who produce frozen chicken. This was because supermarkets in Lagos, Abuja and Portharcourt were shut down and they were not getting the same sales volumes as they normally got.”
There is also the case of subsequent batches of mature birds which the company couldn’t find markets for, owing to the pandemic. To keep these birds alive meant feeding them which in turn meant spending more money on feed. Basically, this created a two-pronged problem; the unavailability of the market and spending the company’s profits on bird feed.
The spokesperson went on to appeal to subscribers to give Thrive Agric time to slowly begin to make the payments, especially in light of the fact that the company has never defaulted in the previous three years it has been in existence.
Robbing Peter to pay Paul?
Enraged customers also berated the agro-investment company of trying to attract new investments even though it is yet to settle old ones. But Thrive Agric said this is not true as it has stopped crowdfunding.
The agribusiness said it did that in good faith to avoid a situation where it seems it is robbing Peter to pay Paul.
“When in April we observed that the business environment was rather unstable, we thought it would be the smart thing if we stepped back a bit and just make sure that people don’t feel like we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul. So we slowed down, we stopped raising investments and then we just started communicating with our customers.”
The company also admitted that the communication might not have been as excellent as subscribers may have liked. It blamed it on the pressure of the present challenge which is quite novel to them.
Piggyvest investors and the question of preferential treatment
One of the most painful aspects of the whole saga, according to some aggrieved investors, is that Thrive Agric has already paid people who invested through Piggyvest and other digital investment platforms but resolutely refused to pay individual subscribers.
Thrive Agric debunked that notion, insisting that because Piggyvest investors are getting paid doesn’t necessarily mean that it has remunerated them.
“It’s not true. It’s just an impression people have because actual people seem to be getting paid from Piggyvest,” the spokesperson told Technext. “We have not made any payment to Piggyvest from March till date. We have rolled over Piggyvest investment because they are large. We will rather pay our own customers who have smaller investments.”
A source close to Piggyvest told Technext that Piggyvest actually paid its own subscribers by itself. The source said it was a product of the partnership between Piggyvest and Thrive Agric in which the agro-investment platform promised to pay back in the future.
The source also said third-party investment platforms like Piggyvest have such partnerships with primary investment platforms like Thrive Agric in which the primary companies make percentage commitments to them.
Just another Ponzi scheme?
Due to the dire economic straits in the country, Ponzi schemes have become very popular, creating an industry worth several billions of Naira. Thus, many Nigerians have become very wary of these schemes as perpetrators keep looking for innovative ways to execute their business.
Some observers are of the opinion that many agric investment platforms are innovative Ponzi schemes. With the current imbroglio surrounding Thrive Agric, aggrieved subscribers can’t help but wonder if they haven’t fallen prey to one such scheme.
“People are entitled to these opinions,” Thrive Agric says. “But if we were truly a Ponzi Scheme we won’t have a website up and by now, with these challenges, we would have just packed our bags and gone home. But we have made sure that we left our communications lines up. We may not have all the answers because this is the first time this thing has happened and we are slowly trying to figure it out.”
When would subscribers get paid?
Addressing the all-important question of when subscribers should expect their returns, the agro-investment platform said the claim that every subscriber hasn’t been paid is not true as it made sure to pay a given percentage of subscribers as at the time different farms and packages matured.
60% was paid in March, up to 90% was paid in April and 60% in May and June. The company said it suffered a huge backlog in July but didn’t owe anybody in August and up till September 16. Yet it expects that business should be back to normal in at least 6 months’ time.
“Very Soon every subscriber would have been paid. If people can be patient with us down till March or maximum by April, all of these would be behind us.Thrive Agric
“No matter how you look at it, this is a breach of trust. And we are already here. The best we can do is to make the most of where we are and try to resolve this as we go forward.”
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