The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has enhanced the credit outreach target to farmers by one million to 4.27 million in the current financial year 2017-18 with the overall disbursement target of more than one trillion rupees.
The central bank also aims to boost the farmers’ productivity through the availability of credit, extension services, farm mechanization, quality seeds & fertilizers, storage facilities and marketing of agricultural produce in the country.
It is pertinent to mention here that the banking sector achieved the target of Rs 700 billion for agriculture credit among 3.27 million farmers throughout the country, last year.
These targets were set in the recent meeting of the Agricultural Credit Advisory Committee (ACAC) meeting held in Quetta recently under the chairmanship of Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Tariq Bajwa. The meeting was attended by senior officers of SBP, presidents and executives of commercial banks, specialized banks, microfinance banks & Islamic banks, representatives from federal & provincial governments, and chamber of agriculture/ farmers associations.
The committee proposed the following key actions:
- Designate at least 20 percent of total branches as agri. lending branches, and ensure availability of adequate Agri. Credit Officer in such outlets.
- Ensure achievement of agri. credit targets of underserved province particularly Baluchistan, KPK, AJK and GB.
- Linking advances with the deposits mobilized from the province to ensure supply of agri. credit in the underserved provinces.
- Making agri. finance a key indicator of banks’ performance.
- Adoption of automated land record management system
- Adoption of digital financial services and branchless banking channels to reduce operational cost and rationalize mark-up rates.
- Capacity building of banks’ officials and farmers awareness in underserved areas
- Use of service providers to support farmers in pre and post harvest activities and to increase access to agri. finance and other banking services.
Bajwa stressed upon four key areas requiring special attention of all stakeholders which included
- Strategizing the achievement of Rs. 1 trillion disbursement target;
- Increasing financial inclusion of smallholders farmers to address their credit needs, particularly for production loans;
- Rationalizing the markup rates on agricultural financing to pass on the benefit of historically low discount rate
- Increasing the bank’s footprint in undeserved regions and provinces for reducing regional disparities.
He highlighted critical challenges faced by the industry including the provision of finance to small and marginalized farmers, addressing geographical and sectoral imbalances and financing to non-crop activities need to be addressed. In particular, financial institutions need to come up with new ideas and products for spreading their outreach to remote and underserved areas like Balochistan. He also stated that there is a huge scope and demand for Shariah compliant agri. financing products and recommended Islamic banks to increase their focus on Islamic agri financing.
SBP Governor advised the financial institutions to treat agriculture financing as a strategic part of their overall credit growth policy and encouraged them to explore new markets, develop innovative products, promote Islamic agri. financing and create more linkages for improving livelihoods in the country.