The rise of tech-enabled startups that allow Nigerians to invest in Agriculture has been spontaneous over the past couple of years. Their ability to allow investors to diversify investment and increase wealth has made them very attractive.
However, over the last year, some of these startups have come under fire for failing to pay investors their returns. reQuid, an agricultural investment platform is the latest to come under fire with allegations of fraud for their failure to pay dividends.
According to certain investors, the agric investment platform has failed to pay up investment capital and returns on investment (ROI) on some of the schemes listed on their platform.
Twitter user, Wale Adetona on April 22nd, 2021, voiced out his personal ordeal with the scheme. He accused reQuid and its co-founder Felix Imafidon of failing to pay the capital and promised interest of his wife’s investments on their platform after 9 months.
“Hello Twitter NG, These guys @requidapp, co-owned by @feliximafidon are scammers! They advertise Agric investment schemes and take money from innocent investors without paying back their capital and ROI. This nonsense must stop!”Wale Adetona, Twitter Influencer
Another investor, Irene who spoke with Technext said she did a rice investment that was supposed to mature in December. However, after several complaints, she has only been able to recover 30% of her capital from reQuid.
Similarly, another reQuid Investor on Nairaland claimed that he has only received 310k out of the 2.8M (Capital + ROI) at stake in the reQuid JV rice investment. He also mentioned other potential losses he could incure.
“My 2.8M (Capital + ROI) is at stake in the reQuid JV rice investment. I have received about 310k out of it I think. FFA defaulted in their fish farm (500k capital) at stake. News coming from Payfarmer and Farmfunded is not looking good. I am bracing up for the potential impact of 2M capital. In total, I have roughly 4.5M at risk,” DeadWrong (pseudonym on Nairaland)
reQuid has, however, taken its time to address the accusation. In a chat with Technext, a spokesperson for the platform acknowledged that reQuid was owing some of its investors but dismissed the accusation of fraud.
He explained that a series of adverse developments surrounding the pandemic led to defaults by partners and reQuid’s subsequent inability to meet up with payments.
Last year, a lot of agribusinesses were affected by both the direct and indirect impact of the pandemic and lockdowns on economic activity, and then the unfavourable weather conditions that resulted in widely reported losses for agribusinesses.Spokesperson, reQuid
The reQuid spokesperson’s explanation is similar to the response of its Co-founder, Felix Imafidon to aggrieved investors on Twitter.
However, some of their investors are not having it as they are still levelling their anger against the company on social media.
Five major defaults by partners
Since its inception, reQuid revealed that it has successfully raised funds from its investors for 57 projects across about seven (7) agribusinesses, including the likes of Thrive Agric, Farmforte Agropartnerships, Globetrot Farmsponsor etc.
However, since December there have been five major defaults by partners. The spokesperson explained that Groupfarma was the first to register huge losses last year due to the drought in Southwest Nigeria.
Another was its Joint Venture with Novus (Technical Partner) for rice production in Kebbi/Sokoto States. The company revealed that about 50% of this project was affected by the Goronyo Dam flood. This led to delayed planting for the most part and subsequently the harvest.
The flood was caused by the opening of the Goronyo Dam by the Kebbi State government. Bloomberg had reported the impact of this flood on rice production.reQuid
Despite the default in payment, the platform has continued to back up the legality of its partners. reQuid expressed that all the seven businesses it onboarded all have quality management, years of experience in the sector and have consistently delivered on their promise of payment.
Why did insurance not cover the losses?
For most startups that deal in investments, having insurance is a major aspect of their policy. This is because it helps protect them from unforeseen damages and also gives investors confidence that their investment can be recuperated.
reQuid was not different. The company told our correspondent that all its partners were required to “fully insure” the projects that its investors funded as part of its risk assessment framework.
In some of the cases, we had required that reQuid’s investors were a first loss payee in the event of a claim, all of which we did to protect the interest of our investorsSpokesperson, reQuid
However, in these recent cases, the insurance didn’t cover most of the losses incurred by the project. The spokesperson for reQuid explained that while insurance was taken to mitigate the risk of losses, in some cases, insurance may not completely cover ALL cases of loss.
He pointed out that the reQuid/Novus JV Rice project is a classic case: “because the flood was “man-made” (caused by the intentional opening of the dam), the insurance company could not be compelled to provide any compensations.”
The company also explained that the high amount of claims insurance companies had to pay last year delayed treatment of claims (agribusiness claims, losses of property during the EndSARS protests, other claims due to the economic impact of the pandemic). It added that in some cases claims took as much as six months after the loss had crystallised.
Investor may get lower interest on Investments
Addressing the all-important question of when subscribers should expect their returns, the agro-investment platform did not give an exact date. But it says each of the affected projects has a repayment plan that has been communicated to the investors via email, and have been updated on its platform.
It explained that since the crystallise in losses started in the fourth quarter of 2020 the company has supported two (2) of its partners to acquire refinancing for their projects to prevent a default on its platform.
reQuid also revealed that Groupfarma, one of the affected partners, has gradually made good on its promises to repay its investors. It added that its first default on the platform has been repaid.
However, Irene a reQuid investor had a counter. While admitting that there was a repayment plan, the platform has not been able to fulfil the payment plan it proposed and have also cut her expected returns by more than 80%.
I haven’t been paid yet. I invested N200,000 to get 28% returns on Dec 28 thereabouts. However, I was only paid 10% of capital in December. reQuid said we’d get a staggering return of the balance of our capital; 70% in March; 20% +5% interest end of April. This reduced my interest from 28% to 5%.Irene
She revealed that when it was time to collect the 70% of her capital in March as promised, the company only paid just 20%. This brought the total of her recovered capital to 30%.
As the April deadline on her payment plan approaches, Irene says she doesn’t know if and when they’d give her the 70% balance.
She’s not alone as Fadamula, a Nairaland user also accused reQuid of not meeting its proposed repayment plan.
This message came from them about Poultry 21 by Farmsponsor:
You have a payout due today.
Sincerest apologies for the delay in this payout.
Our Trustees are yet to confirm receipt of funds from our partner, Farmsponsor.
Be rest assured that your wallets will be credited soonest.
Thank you for your patience
On communicating to investors about defaults in payment, reQuid admitted that the communication was not early in some cases but it wasn’t its fault. The spokesperson explained that the delay in communication was because fundraisers did not inform the company on time.
“We have had cases where delays in payment from the fundraisers were not communicated to us until at the very nick of time. That has resulted in our having to send communication to the affected investors late as well,” the spokesperson said.
Irene was one of the investors that received late communications about delayed payment. She said she got a mail around 25th a few days to her mature date saying rice farm with Novus agro was flooded as govt opened dams and washed away the planted seed.
However, she revealed that the reason the company gave for the delay in communication was different from what they told our correspondent. According to her, reQuid said its delayed response was because it hoped investors will get compensation, hence there wasn’t any need to inform them before the day they did.
Irene, however, agreed that the company has since then been reaching out to them on a regular basis but all the information it gives is “completely empty and full of excuses.”
The calamity that befell the Agriculture and agri-investment sector in 2020, has revealed a big hole in the model being employed by agriculture investment startups.
With the scandal with ThriveAgric and now reQuid, investor trust in the sector is quickly dwindling.
An investor with over N2 million hanging in defaults had this to say though: “Despite the potential losses, I have enjoyed profits from Farmsponsor and Emerald farms. So it’s a trade-off. It’s more like saying what I have gained in profits is being offset by the losses arising from defaults. In the end, it was nothing but a waste of precious time.”
He concluded that he was pulling out from agritech crowdfunding. Similarly, another social media user said he had stopped anything Agritech for more than 1 year now.
My last investment with Farmsponsor and emerald should be maturing in June (about 9M in total I think), then I’ll be pulling out and would say bye-bye to agritech crowdfunding and would focus on investing in my own farm.DeadWrong (pseudonym on Nairaland)
Like him, many others are beginning to abandon agritech crowdfunding due to the increasing number of defaults.
However, reQuid has revealed that it is tweaking its model to develop a more optimal strategy to benefit all the participants (investors and fundraisers).
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