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News : Local Last Updated: Jan 6, 2017 - 6:54:05 PM

Bahamas Development Bank earmarks $500,000 for loans to small farmers
By Yolanda Deleveaux
Jan 6, 2017 - 8:50:43 AM

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Initiative channeled through BAMSI’s Associated Farmers Programme

Nassau, Bahamas - The Bahamas Government has earmarked $500,000 in assistance to small farmers across this nation’s archipelago. The funding, which will be disbursed through a micro-loan initiative between the Bahamas Development Bank (BDB) and the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI), is expected to go towards farm upgrades and agricultural improvements, Assistant Manager of Credit for Bank of the Bahamas Ian Rutherford said.

Under the agri-development initiative, the funding will be channeled through the Institute’s Associated Farmers Programme (AFP) with member farmers able to apply for an individual loan up to $10,000, with interest on the repayment set at prime plus two percent.

Executive Director of BAMSI Dr Raveenia Roberts-Hanna was part of a team who participated in a workshop put on by the bank recently. The aim of the workshop was to educate extension officers, AFP’s administrative team and other members of the BAMSI team about the programme. Dr Hanna said the venture was an important step toward strengthening the nation’s agriculture industry and would serve as a great resource for small farmers who need a modest injection of capital for farm upgrades and improvements to their infrastructure.

Dr. Hanna also pointed out that for students and graduates of BAMSI, becoming a member of the AF programme and accessing the BDB’s micro loan initiative positions them for success as they look to launch their own entrepreneurial ventures in agriculture, livestock, plants or even fisheries.

“This is key for our students because the exposure opens up their minds to potential ventures and their ability to build a business without all the red tape and hassle usually experienced when trying to work within the commercial banking sector,” she said.

During the workshop, participants learned about the application process, including what documentation is needed to fulfill the bank’s requirements, how long the application process takes (some two weeks), and what supporting documents – such as invoices and copies of quotes – should accompany the application form.
The most important stipulation that potential applicants should be aware of is that membership in BAMSI’s Associated Farmers Programme is mandatory for the loan application to be processed.

Mr Rutherford explained the rationale behind the precondition, pointing out that agriculture and fisheries represents only two percent of the bank’s portfolio and ninety percent of that category of loans is nonperforming. “Agriculture and Fisheries [represent] 1.8% or 1.6% of GDP. It is an underperforming and underdeveloped sector of the economy that we are seeking to develop as a part of our mandate,” he said.

BAMS’s involvement in the initiative is viewed as a fail-safe. Members of the Institute’s AF programme receive tremendous technical support and are encouraged to implement best practices at every stage of production. Once the farmers follow the programme, BAMSI is committed to purchasing produce from them. “All we’re asking is for you to register in the Associated Farmers Programme. BAMSI has a mandate to purchase whatever you are able to produce as a farmer so once BAMSI purchases any items, a portion of those funds will be used to pay down the farmer’s debt to the bank. It’s a controlled way to repay funding that we would be lending them,” Mr. Rutherford said. He also noted that as part of the process, BDB will receive confirmation from BAMSI that the farmer/operation is viable before awarding the loan.

Applicants should also be aware that under the lending terms, the bank will provide financial support for tangible assets only. Each applicant can apply for a total of $10,000 and those monies are expected to go towards items such as an irrigation system, farm equipment, buildings (greenhouse, slaughter house, drying facilities), office equipment and animal production apparatus.  As part of BAMSI’s AF programme, applicants will already have access to basic farm materials such as seedlings, fertilizer, pesticides and even livestock.

As part of the approval process, Mr. Rutherford indicated, the bank will examine the individual borrower, and the nature and amount of the loan. The repayment term of the credit facility is determined based on the useful life of the asset being purchased.

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