CDC Group, the U.K. government’s development investment arm, is taking a step to help bridge what it estimates is a funding gap of as much as $31 billion that Africa’s agriculture and food industry faces each year.

The 73-year-old institution is channeling $100 million to small-holder African farmers through export and trading company ETG, and is seeking other partners to help it deploy more capital to the sector.

As banks withdraw funding from agriculture because of regulatory challenges, and with some larger players defaulting, institutions such as CDC have a significant role to play in plugging the shortfall, according to its spokesman and investment director, Brad Smith. “This is the biggest deal we have done in the corporate debt space,” he said in a video call.

The 73-year old institution is channeling $100 million to small-holder African farmers through export and trading company ETG, and is seeking other partners to help it deploy more capital to the sector.

As banks withdraw funding from agriculture because of regulatory challenges, and with some larger players defaulting institutions such as CDC have a significant role to play in plugging the shortfall, according to its spokesman and investment director, Brad Smith. “This is the biggest deal we have done in the corporate debt space,” he said in a video call.

The agreement enables CDC to reach more than half a million farmers across 29 sub-Saharan African nations, from Mozambique and Tanzania to Kenya. The funding will target the least developed markets where ETG operates and be deployed to provide farmers with financing, data analysis and training to boost the production of staple crops such as grains, rice and cocoa.

The investment is part of a larger pledge by the U.K. institution to commit about $1 billion to the continent this year. Many African governments are under strain from the costs of managing the Covid-19 pandemic against a backdrop of poor investment and political instability.

Appropriate interventions to address the funding shortfall — estimated annually at $23 billion to $31 billion — could increase the value of Africa’s agricultural output to $880 billion a year by 2030, or more than triple the $280 billion in 2010, according to research compiled by CDC.

The deal allows the lender to use ETG’s network to extend a large facility into a fragmented industry. ETG offers various services to small-scale farmers, including assistance with soil preparation, warehousing and distribution, and has operated in Africa for over half a century.

“We are looking at other players similar to ETG that focus on other parts of our markets and starting to identify large corporates that can deliver scale but also meet the CDC’s standards around” environmental, social and governance goals, Smith said.