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Tbong Khmum province struggles with debt

Tbong Khmum province struggles with debt

Tbong Khmum province, whose economy is heavily dependent on rubber and pepper farming, had the highest rate of delinquent consumer loans in the country last year, according to the latest credit bureau data, with the province’s non-performing loan (NPL) rate climbing to more than double the national average.

The small eastern province, whose outstanding consumer loan portfolio reached $408 million as of the end of 2016, had an NPL rate of 2.87 percent, according to the 2016 annual report of the Credit Bureau Cambodia (CBC) obtained by The Post yesterday. Data showed some 1,372 of the province’s total 96,407 borrowers had fallen more than 30 days behind on their bank and microfinance loan payments last year.

Tbong Khmum province’s 2.87 NPL rate was followed by that of Ratanakkiri province, which had a 2.32 NPL rate, and Pursat province, at 2.29. The average NPL rate across the Kingdom was 1.28 percent on an outstanding loan value of $12.5 billion, according to CBC data.

Hout Ieng Tong, president and CEO of Hattha Kaksekar Ltd (HKL), one of Cambodia’s largest deposit-taking microfinance institutions, said yesterday that NPL rates in the country, including Tbong Khmum province, were not overly concerning. However, he said the CBC data showed that lenders needed to be more cautious to keep rates from further deteriorating.

“I don’t think that this is a serious problem,” he said. “But it is an alert for us to be more cautious and strengthen our loan quality.”

Ieng Tong said he did not wish to speculate on the reasons behind the high delinquency rates in Tbong Khmum province, though he added that for HKL’s lending operations, Preah Vihear province actually showed the highest NPL rate.

Ly Leng, deputy governor of Tbong Khmum province, attributed the high NPL rate to the challenges that local farming communities faced as the result of low prices on their agricultural products. He explained that despite higher yields from rubber and pepper farms, market prices were volatile and demand often lacking.

“Farmers still produced good yields from their crops but there was a problem regarding market demand,” he said. “The price for pepper and rubber both fluctuated last year, with the troughs deeper than in previous years.”

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