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Agriculture on bank agendas

Agriculture on bank agendas

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A woman harvests rice in Siem Reap province in November of last year. Agri-business has been highlighted as a main target by banks this year. Photo by: Will Baxter

Rice milling and food processing will be factors in loan demand

THE agricultural sector is proving one of the top target markets for loans this year, according to some of the Kingdom’s leading bankers.

An improvement in sector outlook has spurred interest, members of the banking community said yesterday. Last year, the government outlined plans to export one million tonnes of milled rice to global markets by 2015.

In Channy, chief executive officer and president of ACLEDA bank, said that after its outstanding loan value rose by 36.82 percent in 2010, the agricultural sector was the bank’s main focus.

“We plan increase loans to the agricultural sector from 12.25 percent of total loan value in 2010 to 15.25 percent. We plan to increase our [total] loans from US$744 million in 2010, to $1 billion this year,” he
said.

He stated that the agricultural sector was a large sector which many commercial banks had not previously targeted, due to a lack of rural branches. The sector represented 43 percent of loan customers for ACLEDA in 2010.

Rival banks, however, are looking towards agricultural development as a growth market. Dieter Billmeier, vice president of Canadia Bank, saw his bank’s total loans rise by 30 percent year-on-year in 2010, led by the agricultural sector.

“Agricultural growth is very strong and will continue at a high level for the next few years. Rice milling facilities and food processing facilities will be factors in loan demand in years to come,” he said.

ANZ Bank also highlighted agri-business as a main target for 2011. “Our focus sectors this year include agri-business, manufacturing, and wholesale and retail trade. We are also very interested in infrastructure.” said Stephen Higgins, chief executive officer of ANZ Royal Bank.

General manager of Foreign Trade Bank Gui Anvanith described agriculture as “the machine of our economy” that would push growth in other sectors.

ANZ, ACLEDA and FTB all ruled out real estate loans as a target sector for 2011.

Last year, FTB, Canadia, and Vietnam’s BIDC banks signed an agreement with the state-led Rural Development Bank  for a $23 million loan package to be disbursed to the agricultural sector.

The government has doubled funds for agricultural loans made through RDB from $18 million in 2010 to $36 million this year. It is also preparing a $25-million fund to guarantee 50 percent of credit offered to the rice industry by commercial banks.

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