Agriculture can farm out economy


Muhammad Ashraf Khan, Executive Director, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has emphasized upon the banks to adopt agricultural financing as a viable business activity for the development of the agriculture sector in the country.
Presiding over a one-day ‘Farmers’ Financial Literacy & Awareness Program on Agricultural Financing,’ which was jointly organized by State Bank and Habib Bank Ltd. today at NRSP Training Center, Bahawalpur, he said the agriculture sector has a key role in country’s economy and stressed the need for making necessary finances available to farmers for multiple cropping activities. He outlined SBP’s efforts for creating awareness amongst the farming community and developing capacity of commercial banks through its various training and awareness programmes.
Prof. Dr. Muhammad Mukhtar, Vice Chancellor, Islamia University Bahalwalpur, who was the Chief Guest at the inaugural session, appreciated State Bank’s initiative to promote farmers’ financial literacy and stressed the need to synergise the efforts of all stakeholders to improve access to credit especially to the agriculture sector. He said that academia can play an important role in improving credit culture and in creating awareness among the farming community.
Dr. Saeed Ahmed, Head, Agricultural Credit and Microfinance Department, SBP said the programme is aimed at creating awareness among the farming community about agriculture financing products & services offered by banks, money management techniques and lending procedures, documentations, etc. Besides, it would also develop capacity of agriculture field officers of banks in agri. financing and synergize the efforts of all stakeholders including policy makers, executing agencies, service providers & farming community to improve access to agricultural credit, he said, adding that SBP’s promotional initiatives and policy interventions have translated into around 200 percent increase in the flow of credit to the agriculture sector from Rs. 137.4 billion in 2005-06 to Rs. 263 billion in 2010-11.
However, he pointed out, despite this encouraging growth, the disbursement to the agriculture sector was around 40% of the total estimated credit requirements. ‘SBP has planned to increase the disbursement to 70-80 percent during the next five years covering 3.3 million borrowers by adopting a multipronged strategy,’ he added.
The inaugural session was followed by a technical session for the agricultural credit staff of banks in which senior officials of SBP and HBL made detailed presentations on dynamics of agriculture finance and related policies. The purpose of this session was to train the agriculture finance officials of banks enabling them to conduct farmers’ financial literacy programs at their end and to share the best practices in agriculture lending with the participants.
A farmers’ session was also held to educate the farming community about the products and services offered by financial institutions, their rights and duties as customers of financial institutions, consumer protection as well as money management skills to enable them to use their limited financial resources in a prudent manner. This session was attended by a large gathering of farmers from adjoining areas of Bahawalpur. The officials of SBP and senior management of HBL present on the occasion responded to various queries raised by the local farming community and apprised them about the future plans/initiatives for improving access to agriculture finance.
The program was attended, among others, by Mr. Khadim Hussain, Chief Manager, SBP BSC Bahawalpur, bankers, officials of Agriculture Extension Department and farmers’ representatives, besides other senior officials of SBP and SBP BSC, Bahawalpur.