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Agric plays major role in our economy -Gyan Baffuor

By Michael Boateng, Berekum - Ghanaian Chronicle
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The Deputy Minister of Finance, Professor Gyan Baffour, says the dominance of agriculture in the national economy, can be translated into an advantage in the country's economic development pursuit, if the sector is made to operate at its maximum level.

He pointed out that the efficient, and effective provision of agricultural finance, was one of the surest ways of doing this, which explained government's commitment to enhance agricultural finance, across the length and breadth of the country.

Professor Gyan Baffour was speaking at the commissioning of the new premises of the Berekum branch, of the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB).

He noted that for agriculture to become more viable, ADB needed the injection of larger capital than was currently available to it.

“Government believes that what is required, is not a simple sale of the bank to private investors, but the creation of a more efficient and effective model, that will guarantee farmers and fishermen access to credit on a sustainable basis, through the infusion of adequate capital into the Bank's finances,” he said.

Commenting on the high loan default rate, associated with agricultural financing, the minister said while government would take the needed steps, to reverse the dwindling ratios of agricultural credit portfolio, it would also lend support to the banks, in their efforts to get their borrowers to abide by the terms of loan agreements with them.

“What borrowers need to know is that credit-making is a cycle. Loan defaulters only succeed in causing a breakdown of this cycle. All of us become losers in the end,” he said.

The Managing Director of ADB, Mr. Yaw Opoku Atuahene, said the branch had been computerized, and linked to the other branches of the bank, adding that customers of the branch could still make transactions on their accounts, away from the branch, when they find themselves in other parts of the country.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of ADB, Mr. Paul Koranteng, said the stock of loans for the various sectors, in the Berekum area, had grown to GH¢3.9 million, as at the end of May this year.

He noted that as many as 3,600 farmers, foodstuff traders and workers were beneficiaries, adding that in the cashew sub-sector, more than 1,800 farmers were currently enjoying facilities, amounting to over GH¢884,494, as compared to GH¢6,145 in December 2006.

He reminded the youth that ADB had introduced a special scheme for them, called the Young Farmers Programme. It is aimed at encouraging the youth, between 18 and 35 years, to accept agriculture as a business.

It is also designed to enhance incomes of farmers in rural areas, replace the ageing agricultural labour force, reduce the high rate of youth unemployment, and to increase food security at the household level.

Mr. Koranteng gave the assurance that ADB would continue to work assiduously in the interest of the country, especially in the area of agricultural financing, and food security.

He noted that even though total bank credit, to the private sector, had grown substantially, the agricultural sector had not benefited much from this expansion, because of challenges and the lack of capacity for expansion.

He pointed out that as at the end of the first quarter of the year, only 3.3 per cent of the industry's credit was in agriculture, but ADB's share of the total credit to agriculture was 48.9 percent, meaning that ADB plays a crucial role in the development of the agricultural sector.

Mr. Koranteng said as a token in appreciation of the Berekum community's continuous loyalty, and support for the Bank's business, the Board and Management have decided that, as a social responsibility, the Bank would provide financial support for the refurbishment of the Delivery and Maternity ward of the Holy Family Hospital, which is currently in a bad condition.

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