KARACHI: Although the banking industry missed the agriculture credit target for FY21, it disbursed 12 per cent more loans year-on-year despite challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change.

“Credit disbursement to agriculture sector increased to Rs1.366 trillion in FY21, witnessing a growth of 12pc over FY20,” said the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Monday. The target was Rs1.5tr for FY21.

However, the number of borrowers also declined during the year. The central bank has been trying for several years to broaden the base of borrowers to expand credit penetration across the country.

“The number of agricultural credit borrowers witnessed a decline of 5pc, falling from 3.7 million in FY20 to 3.5m in FY21, primarily due to a pandemic-induced limited outreach,” said the SBP.

Disbursements show 12pc growth over preceding year

The SBP said the disbursement is collective effort of 49 financial institutions which managed to achieve together 91pc of their assigned target of Rs1.5tr for the year.

The outstanding agricultural credit stood at Rs628 billion as on June 30, witnessing year-on-year growth of over 8pc, complementing the overall positive outlook of agriculture sector which grew at 2.77 per cent during FY21, it added. During FY21, the commercial, specialised and Islamic banks posted a better performance by disbursing Rs1.21tr against their target of Rs1.27tr, thus achieving 95pc of their assigned disbursement target.

However, microfinance banks as a group achieved 73pc of their target by disbursing agricultural loans of Rs132bn to small farmers.

The microfinance institutions and rural support programs collectively achieved 57pc of their target by disbursing Rs23bn to small and marginalised farmers.

The SBP, together with the government and the private sector, made concerted efforts for the development and commercialization of the agricultural sector through provision of formal financial services, it added.

The proactive response by SBP to combat the threats posed by Covid-19 bolstered the economy and resulted in a rather quick rebound in economic activities across all major sectors including agriculture, said the SBP.

Besides reducing the policy rate by 625 basis points, the SBP allowed banks to offer principal deferment and restructuring of agriculture loans to help combat economic disruptions.

“As of April 2021, around 2m borrowers in the agriculture and microfinance sectors have availed the deferred principal and restructured loan option with outstanding loans amounting to Rs132bn,” said the SBP

The central bank said that its programmes and policy interventions addressed the cross-cutting issue of food security enabling a regulatory environment, greater inclusion of women and advancement in farm practices.

“The SBP facilitated banks’ partnership with provincial land revenue authorities for the integration and use of automated land records for loaning,” it added.

The SBP said that the government’s crop loan insurance and livestock loan insurance schemes also played an instrumental role in encouraging banks to provide loans to small farmers.

Courtesy by :https://www.dawn.com/news/