The Fiji Development Bank’s Agriculture Family Loan Facility, a loan package designed for experienced farming families, was launched at the Katonivere Ground in Labasa yesterday.
While officially launching the package, Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development, Waterways and Environment, Hon. Dr Mahendra Reddy applauded the innovative solution developed by the FDB as the need to arrive at a suboptimal solution to deal with imperfect factor markets was crucial.
“I have much pleasure in launching this product because FDB’s Agriculture Family Loan is a multi-dimensional solution to achieving sustainable agriculture in Fiji, rural development and contributes towards the Government’s financial inclusion agenda,” he said.
“The product is designed for experienced Fijian farming families. That is, the loan will be offered to a family: husband, wife and eligible child to be involved in the loan and share the skills set and responsibilities. It is specifically designed for families who have a viable farming business on communally owned land, estate or private owned land with consent given by the land owning unit”
“With assistance through the Ministry of Agriculture grants, many Fijian families are able to start their farming business at semi-subsistence level, but to expand farm development into semi-commercial level for farmers without lease remains a major constraint to accessing finance,” said Minister Reddy.
The new product is targeted at customers identified as subsistence, semi-commercial and commercial farmers with more than 10 years farming experience and an established market.
“However, the binding constraints to expansion of this sector cannot be provided for by the public sector alone. We need all key stakeholders to play their respective strategic roles so that we can leap forward and take this sector to greater heights,” he said.
He further emphasized that a key binding constraint was the provision of financial services as breaking the barriers, expanding and modernizing the agriculture sector and introduction of new technologies required financial injection.
“Loans will be available for land development, farmhouse, and infrastructure such as farm inroads, water supply, renewable energy and irrigation to approved experienced farmers with no lease across Fiji,” said Minister Reddy.
Minister Reddy elaborated Government’s intent on expanding agriculture, as the sector had the potential to grow the national income on a sustainable basis; “The Fijian Government sees increases in productivity in the agricultural sector playing multidimensional roles. These include increasing productive employment, stimulating growth, increasing sustainability and hence enabling the positive and inclusive transformation of the economy,” he said.
“Expanding agriculture within rural areas as well as in peri-urban and urban areas will play a major role in terms of developing our women and youths and contributing to our food security objective.
Dr. Reddy said the product aims to contribute to our national agricultural development strategy in improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by accessing inputs and modern technologies, strengthening their linkages to markets, improving access to information, research, and knowledge.