• Thursday, May 30, 2024
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Outrage as HO Corn spreads 50% interest, capital repayment to December on low patronage

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HO Corn, the agro-investment platform that promised an eye-popping 50 percent interest rate to farm investors, is yet again struggling to pay out.

The company had set 30 October as a new repayment date after it failed to meet the July deadline due to the COVID-19 lockdown which it said affected its operations. Many investors who kept vigil with the company to receive their alerts on Friday, 30 October, came out disappointed.

After keeping thousands of investors waiting, HO Corn issued a letter announcing the payment exercise will now run from 30 October to 30 December, 2020.

Read more HO Corn, like Thrive Agric, postpones repayment of investors funds twice

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The company blamed the disruption to its calendar on “events of these past months”. In the letter, the company said it still has corn that is yet to attain maturity due to late planting “due to the immensity of our farm”.

HO Corn's statement HO Corn's statement HO Corn's statement

 

While harvesting is ongoing, HO Corn said some of the harvested corn is not dried enough to reach the moisture content specification of potential buyers.

Mohammed Kolawole, Business Development Consultant for HO Corn, told BusinessDay in a telephone interview that usually buyers would demand that the harvested corn be dried to either a 12.5 percent or 14 percent moisture content, whereas there are buyers who prefer the corn is dry from the farm.

In any case, HO Corn said it still has vast unharvested farmland. The company said it also suffered from a short supply of raw materials for farming by vendors.

“Most of the places where we source our raw materials from had issues delivering, we are talking about big companies like FMN. The files and documentation are there. This is a business and for everything, we do we have documentation,” Kolawole said.

“The major players were not able to meet some of our demands. As it stands, our company has the largest private corn farm in Nigeria. If you would visit our farm alone nobody in Nigeria has ever farmed that landmass on a piece of land at a go.

“Most of the chemicals requested did not arrive on time because the order we placed for most of them has never been supplied in that quantity by any agro company in Nigeria, so they have to source some of them from outside,” he said.

Two weeks before the protest against police brutality in Nigeria, HO Corn launched a platform called Buycorn.ng with the goal of selling its corn produce directly to customers. On the platform, the very first in Nigeria, customers can order fresh corn or cooked corn which will be delivered directly with toppings like pear or coconut. Kolawole said sales from the platform have been impressive and could be vital to settling all outstanding payments.

However, investors BusinessDay spoke with said HO Corn may not have started paying yet.

An investor who gave her first name as Faith said an individual effort to find out beneficiaries of the repayment has come up with nothing.

“No single person has testified to that,” Faith, who invested N100,000 and is expecting a payout of N150,000, told BusinessDay. “I’ve checked Twitter, Instagram, and even Nairaland.”

Sola Ogunbayo, another investor, also corroborated Faith’s position that no one has been paid despite HO Corn’s claim to the contrary.

Bernard Johnson, another investor, also told BusinessDay that he was yet to receive payments.

But Kolawole insisted that the company has commenced payment since Friday but won’t be able to pay everyone at the same time because of paucity of funds.

“I can’t give you an accurate number of those who have been paid. But regarding payment, we are paying in full; return on investment is 50 percent, and if you invest N100,000 that means you are to get N150,000. We will pay at a go,” Kolawole said.

“We have a whole lot of customers – in thousands – but there are a couple of them who are social media savvy. Some of our big investors are offline, they are rarely online. We call some of them or send messages and they also call in. Sometimes we do have online meetings and we explain things to them. The farm is there, it is not a hoax or a scam,” he said.

HO Corn had in February 2020 embarked on nationwide publicity in which it said it plans to cultivate maize on about 30,000 hectares of land located in Oyo State which it expects to yield an additional 120,000 metric tons to national output to help meet household and industrial demand for the crop in 2020.

Harrison Andrew, CEO of HO Corn, had said that the 30,000 hectares production capacity could accommodate 30,000 investors with a minimum investment of N100,000 per lot and an assurance of 50 percent return on investment.

For many investors who flocked to the platform, HO Corn’s attraction was beyond its tantalizing offer of 50 interest; the well-planned nationwide publicity that spared little expense was more than enough to convince a lot of people that the company had genuine plans to fulfill its promise.

“I was more confident when I saw their representative on Channels TV, I felt that for them to have gone that far, they must be legit,” Faith told BusinessDay. “Social media influencers advertised for them too on Twitter.”

Some of the aggrieved investors have now created a WhatsApp group and are actively recruiting other members to join.

“We have created a WhatsApp group to gather ourselves together in order to challenge this scam and take them up legally in unison,” said Smart Abbey, an investor.

Abbey, who said he invested N500,000, added that no decision has been reached yet on what steps to take.