Easy access to finance

Fiji Rice Ltd board chairman Raj Sharma, fourth from left, Ministry of Agriculture permanent secretary Vinesh Kumar, President Ratu Wiliame Katonivere and FDB chief executive offi cer Saud Minam, with colleagues at the agreement signing. Picture: MONIKA SINGH

An agreement signed between the Fiji Development Bank and Fiji Rice Ltd will enable rice farmers get access to finance in terms of loans at an affordable interest rate.

Under the FDB’s new financial solution Rice Mobility Package which was launched yesterday, rice farmers without any formal lease can access loans with a minimum of $5000 to $10,000 without any security.

This facility will be available from December 1 at an interest rate of 4.99 per cent.

FDB chief executive officer Saud Minam said the package promoted the expansion of rice production and encouraged farmers to use banking services that integrate them into the value chain and would provide access to financing for those without lease or land title.

“Through this partnership with Fiji Rice, farmers will receive technical assistance on improving their production.

“This would strengthen the value chain which in return would ensure provision of jobs to service providers in the value chain such as seedling suppliers, machinery operators, transportation SMEs, and packaging companies among others.

“With these barriers removed, farmers can concentrate on improving their production capacity, and on ways of making the supply chain more resilient to economic and natural shocks such as those caused by climate change,” he said.

Under this facility, eligible individual rice farmers, or those part of joint ventures and cooperatives, or in partnership or a company can access up to $250,000 through the package at subsidized interest rates while for loans above $250,000 these will be considered at a commercial rate where interest rates may vary.

The package which was launched yesterday by the President of the Republic of Fiji, Ratu Wiliame Katonivere, will have both FDB and Fiji Rice Ltd support rice production through value chain financing, a concept that connects farmers to a guaranteed market which then allows them to access financing and technical assistance more readily and processors to secure consistent supply.

Ratu Wiliame said he had been associated with the promotion of promotion of the sustainability of the rice industry in Fiji with the Fiji Rice Ltd board.

“Fiji’s rice import bill stands around $40 million for 40,000 tonnes annually. “According to the Ministry of Agriculture we only produce 16 per cent of the rice we need,” he said.

He said the package would allow more farmers to engage in rice farming and plant more rice which would help lower the rice import bill.

“That money could be diverted to areas such as health and education.”

Fiji Rice Ltd board chairman Raj Sharma said there was a lot interest coming from small sector farmers, co-operatives, former inmates, farmers who were landowners who wanted to engage in rice farming.

Mr Sharma said they recently had a meeting with the Commissioner Eastern who highlighted the huge interest from the people in the Eastern Division for rice planting.

Farmers from other parts of the country, namely Ra, Navua, Ba, Tavua and Rakiraki have also shown a huge interest in rice farming.

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