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The study evaluated the effects of capital structure of small and medium scale agro-enterprises on access to microfinance banks credit in Enugu state, Nigeria. A multistage sampling technique was used to select 120 agro- enterprise loan recipients from microfinance banks. The data collected were analysed using descriptive statistics, capital structure ratio analysis, multiple regression analysis, simple linear regression analysis and likert scale rating technique. The result showed that 64.2% of enterprise owners were between the ages of 41 to 50 years, 61.7% were males while 38.3% were females. Majority (53.3%) of the loan recipients had secondary education, 64.2% had experience in management 9-12 years, all the agro-enterprises examined were small scaled and 71.6% were located close to microfinance banks. About 62.5% incurred debt of between N1500001 to N2500000, 40.8% had equity position of N4000001 to N5000000, 60.0% had savings level of N 300001 to N600000 with the banks, 93.3% accessed credit at the rate of 21% to 30% and 35% made profit before interest and tax (PBIT) of N2000001 to N2500000. The multiple regression analysis revealed that experience in enterprise management had positive sign and was significant (p<0.05) on volume of credit accessed, savings level was also positive and significant (p<0.01) on volume of credit accessed. Age, interest rate and debt-equity ratio had negative signs and were significant (p<0.05) on volume of credit accessed. The agro-enterprises had debt-equity ratio of 0.54, debt-assets ratio of 0.35, equity- assets ratio of 0.65 and interest coverage ratio of 3.29. Debt-equity ratio was positive and significant (p<0.05) on demand-access gap. The major constraints to access were interest rate charged by the banks (3.07), savings level with the banks (3.12) and quality of business plan (2.54). The study therefore, recommends that agro-enterprises should adjust their capital structure in such a way that the equity level should be greater than debt by a high margin in order to access microfinance bank credit without much difficulty; agro-enterprises should increase their savings level with microfinance banks by increasing their cash deposits; and agro-enterprises should adopt methods that will increase the returns on investment in order to increase their interest coverage ratio. This can be done through strategic marketing which will in turn increase sales.



1.1        Background of Study

The term capital structure is used to represent the proportionate relationship between debt and equity. Equity includes paid-up share capital, share premium and reserve and surplus (retained earnings) (Pandey, 2010), while debt can be classified into bank debt, straight bond debt, convertible bond debt, program debt (such as commercial paper), mortgage debt, and all other debts (Rauh & Sufi, 2008). A firm can issue a large amount of debt or a large amount of equity; hence it is important for a firm to deploy the appropriate mix of debt and equity that can maximize its overall market value. Utilization of different levels of equity and debt by managers is one strategy used by firms to improve their financial performance (Gleason, Mathur & Mathur, 2000).

Capital structure is important for agricultural firms, lenders, and policy analysts because all of them need information about financial structure of agricultural enterprises in order to make justified decisions about farm viability (Nurmet, 2011). It is the most significant aspect of company’s operations. Capital structure theories predict that leverage level influences a firm’s performance (Orua, 2009). Maina and Ishmail (2014) reported that there was evidence of a negative and significant relationship between capital structure and all measures of performance. This implies that the more debt the firms used as a source of finance they experienced low performance. Capital structure decision is a vital decision with great implications for the firm's sustainability. The ability of the organization to meet its stakeholders need is closely related to the capital structure (Leon, 2013).

Agricultural credit is the present and temporary transfer of purchasing power from a person who owns it to a person who wants it, allowing the later opportunity to command another person’s capital for agricultural purposes, but with confidence in his willingness and ability to repay at a specified future date with or without interest (Nwaru, 2011). According


to Akudugu (2012), credit is a strategic empowerment tool that has the potential to change the life of a person, family or community from a situation of abject poverty to a more dignified life. It can transform self-image, unlock potential and boost the productivity and well-being of the poor and vulnerable. Credit could bring about higher productivity and profit in agricultural production (Ashaolu, Mamioh, Philip & Tijani, 2011) and may be financial or consist of goods and services.

Access to agricultural credit has been positively linked to agricultural productivity in several studies in Nigeria (Rahaman & Marcus 2004; Abu, Odoemenem, & Ocholi, 2010; Ugbajah, 2011), higher credit levels are associated with higher input use (Satyasai, 2012). Access to credit by small and medium agro enterprises is vital because the contributions which small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) make to the economic growth process have been well documented (Mambula, 2002). Small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) generate more direct job per naira of investment than do larger enterprises. They serve as a training ground for developing technical and entrepreneurial skills and; by virtue of their greater use of indigenous technological capabilities, they promote local inter-sectoral linkages and contribute to the dynamism and competitiveness of the economy. Prior to the 1970s, the small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) belonged to the past but this view has since changed because the contributions of SMEs to industrial and economic growth of countries have been recognised internationally (Nnanna, 2001). SMEs access to credit therefore will play an important role in enhancing economic recovery. The extent to which firms can access external financing has been shown to have an influence on the investment activity of the firm and the ability of the firm to trade internationally (McCann, 2001). Unfortunately, SMEs, the engine of economic growth and development in many developing economies are still a shadow of themselves (McCann, 2001).


Ihyembe (2000), Eze (2007), Ike and Chidebelu (2003), attributed several reasons for the poor performance of agro-based SMEs. Among these is that they are operating under an environment of poor credit policy support which does not provide opportunity for maximization of profit in a competitive market. Ihyembe (2000) also reported that the absence of capital could frustrate the taking off of any business and since personal savings or contributions from family members and peer groups were not always enough, providing bank credit to SMEs would enable the SMEs provide necessary capacity building, infrastructure and raw materials to large scale industries. Due to diverse financial as well as non-financial and behavioural factors, small and medium scale enterprises rely more heavily on short term funding and this makes them more prone to volatile economic situations. Under such circumstances, banks have to request for more reliable collateral security to guard against loan default.

Access to credit could be through formal and informal sources. Formal sources such as agricultural, commercial, development and microfinance banks, poverty eradication programmes, nongovernmental organizations, and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) provide about 35% or 43% of the credit needs of farmers while the informal sources including friends, relations, local money lenders, traders and merchants, “ISUSU” and other traditional lending groups, operating outside legal framework, provide 65% or 57% of the credit needs (Ugwumba, Okoh & Isitor, 2009; Mesike & Okoh, 2008). However, informal credit sources provide easier access to credit facilities for small-scale enterprises, although the ability of informal credit sources to meet the demand of those requiring large amounts of credit as they grow is limited (Ajagbe, Oyelere & Ajetomobi, 2012). Deakins, North, Baldock and Whittam (2008) reported that even those SMEs who are in the formal market, a further complication faced by entrepreneurs trying to access finance is that banks are not set up to cope with small loans. Micro finance institutions (MFIs), on the other hand, do have


structures in place for smaller loans, but the loans are at high interest rates that most small businesses cannot afford. Other factors inhibiting SMEs’ access to credit include the lack of business managerial experience and skills, insufficient information on available products, relatively low levels of financial literacy, poor business plans and other external factors.

Microfinance institutions have become the main source of funding enterprises in agriculture in developing countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Pakistan, etc. Microfinance banks are distinguished from other financial institutions in that they offer small loans and other financial services; there is also the absence of asset based collateral and simplicity in their operation (Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), 2004). Due to reforms by the Federal Government of Nigeria, the CBN set up the Microfinance Banks to take over from Community Banks, with a mandate to make credit facilities available to small-scale enterprise operators including farmers. The policy framework establishing microfinance institutions in the country, saddles them with the responsibility of providing easy, cheap and affordable financial services to the resource poor farmers, in a timely and competitive manner. This would enable them to undertake and develop long-term, sustainable entrepreneurial skill, mobilizing loans and creating employment opportunities and increase the productivity of these rural farmers, thereby increasing their farm income and output and uplifting their standard of living (Olawuyi, Olapade-Ogunwole, Fabiyi & Ganiyu, 2010).

In order for microfinance institutions (MFIs) to be able to help these people (resource poor farmers) gain access to financial sources, they need to be able to cover their costs and earn profits. It is hard for MFIs to achieve their goals if they are not performing well financially (Camilla, 2012). According to (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), (2006), microfinance works well when it measures and discloses its performance and hence, accurate standardized performance information is imperative, both financial information and social information. Further, CGAP, (2006) stated that the MFIs, donors, investors and


banking supervisors need this information to judge their cost, risk and returns. However, microfinance institutions are facing challenges in Nigeria due to poor loan quality, default in loan repayment, high transaction costs, widespread delinquency, and management deficiencies (Ogujiuba, Fadila & Stiegler, 2013). For SMEs to move forward and keep growing, an appropriate combination of access to credit, credit conditions, and adequate financial and operational policies, are needed to deal with the complex problems confronting them (Mairura, Namusonge, & Karanja, 2013).

1.2        Problem Statement

The problem with funding SMEs is not so much on the source of funds but the accessibility to these sources of funds. This is due to several interventions set up by the Federal Government of Nigeria to make credit available to SMEs. Interventions which include, the establishment of credit schemes such as the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme (ACGS) and the Agricultural Credit Support Scheme (AGSS) to ensure farmers’ access to agricultural credit (Badiru, 2010). They include reforms by the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the (CBN) to set up Microfinance Banks to take over from Community Banks, with a mandate to make credit facilities available to small-scale enterprise operators including farmers (Olawuyi, et al., 2

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