Agriculture is big business for ACLEDA Bank. According to Prey Veng Branch Manager Toch Bonboramy, about 40 percent of the money loaned by the bank goes to farmers. Rice is easily the biggest crop. Farmers in the province tend to grow two crops – one in the wet season and a second one in the dry season.
“Customers borrow money to grow rice, and last year was very good,” says Toch Bonboramy. “Some customers used to borrow micro-loans and now they take out small loans. This is the way the amount of loans increases.”
Chay Ya, 25, is one of ACLEDA’s clients. During the dry season she grows rice on a hectare of land in the village of Baray Lech. Last August, she took out a loan of 2.5 million riel (US$625).
“I borrowed the money to buy fertiliser and gasoline,” she says. “The rice is healthier this year than last year.”
Her husband, Nhep Saroth, 27, is unconcerned about meeting their repayments. The couple do casual work on construction sites and other people’s farms in order to pay back the loan. They have already paid back one million riel, and will pay back the outstanding amount once they have harvested the rice.
“Now we have borrowed the money, we can see how much easier it is than before, because we can buy fertiliser and gasoline,” says Nhep Saroth. “After the harvest, we will have the rice and so can pay back the bank.”
Nhep Saroth is considering taking out a further loan in order to buy some pigs. “If we can, we will buy 15 piglets,” he says. “And when they grow big we will sell them and pay off the bank.”
TRANSLATION BY RANN REUY