SUNBIZ

Sugar Cane Growers Fund Approves Over $2 Million In Loans

"The Sugar Cane Grow­ers Fund (SCGF) has already approved close to $2.515 million in loans to sugarcane farmers since the beginning of this year."
20 Mar 2019 14:00
Sugar Cane Growers Fund Approves Over $2 Million In Loans
Sugar Cane Growers Fund chief executive officer Raj Sharma.

The Sugar Cane Grow­ers Fund (SCGF) has already approved close to $2.515 million in loans to sugarcane farmers since the beginning of this year.

This was confirmed by the Fund chief executive officer Raj Sharma yesterday.

Majority of the loans were for the purchase of trucks, farming machinery, farm development,education and even purchase of farms.

The SCGF has, however, halted any bigger loans for farmers’, co-operatives wanting to purchase me­chanical harvesters but continues to assist individ­ual provided they meet the harvesting gang rationali­sation process set by Sugar Industry Tribunal, Fiji Sug­ar Corporation and Sugar Cane Growers Council.

He said that Fund was cur­rently focusing on individ­ual small to medium loans for farmers.

“We ran a Back to School promotion which was suc­cessfully completed with loans in access of $150, 000 paid out to 178 farmers who had applied,” Mr Sharma said.

“For the co- operative or harvester loans, those who had showed interest with us, we have communicated to them and approved de­posits as part of the loans given to them on individual farmer basis and where pos­sible arrangements with Fiji Development Bank (FDB) to assist them pro­vided they fall within the FDB’s guidelines.”

He also thanked FDB for assisting the grower co-op­eratives.

“We are very much focused to assist individual farm­ers and we have seen that just last month on the se­cured mortgage and prior­ity loans, we have approved loans in access of $1.369 million to 265 farmers.

“This has been quite en­couraging and quite a num­ber of applications that we have received for small loans had to do with house repairs, farm develop­ments, purchase of tractors and trucks so these are very much encouraging on farm­ers on the cane farms.

“We have also approved loans for farm purchases even or the small mechani­cal machines that the farm­ers intended to buy.

“The interest rates that we charge right now it ranges from three per cent to six and a half percent or in some cases on seven and a half on the ma­chines and plants and the term ranges from five years to seven years to twelve years for farm purchase.

“We don’t have the huge fees and charges and our interest rate is very competitive.

“We are focused on the cane farmers and the funds also directly or indirectly belong to the farmers,” added Mr Sharma

Investments

For this year alone, the SCGF had ap­proved $996,000 for 336 loan applications in January and in Feb­ruary, 265 loan appli­cations amounting to $1.369 million.

“We expect more loan applications now because of the prepa­ration for the upcom­ing harvesting season usually start in June each year.

“Relatively to the profit that we make which is around $1.7 to $2million annu­ally, $600,000 we pay back to the farmers in terms of the insur­ance premium that we pay for the farmers.

“So almost one third of the income that we get, we give it back to the farmers in form of the insurance pre­mium that we pay and these insurance to those farmers up to $10, 000.”

He said this includes immediate funerals $1000, permanent dis­ability $3000, house fire $3000 for the main house and term life $3000.

The insurance presently is restricted to farmers up to 65 years but the Fund has been talking to Fiji Care In­surance to increase the age limit to 70 years.

“They have indicated to accept the revised age with increase in premium.

“So increase in premium at the moment is $52 per year, they are looking at in­creasing it to $70,” he added.

For the two three years, the SCGF had been paying the growers insurance pre­miums which amounted to over $600,000

“Next year is the final year and the growers will have to start paying their own pre­miums or what is decided.”

He said of the 11,000 ac­tive cane farmers in the industry, around 6000 had registered for the insurance programme. The remaining 5000 also come under the in­surance cover but they still have yet to sign the forms.”

Mr Sharma said the Fund had re-positioned itself with more visibility and a lot of checks and balance.

He noted that they have encountered some difficul­ties with farmers who had not repaid their loans and would pursue all possible avenues to talk with them as to how they could repay it before any major actions are taken.

“The last option is mortga­gee sale but we do not want to do that.We have commu­nicated with these farmers through letters, phone and through radio.

“If they can’t repay the loans they need to come in and talk with us to see what best could be done.”

He said for those farmers who have abandoned their farms without paying then they take the necessary ac­tions to recover the money.

Feedback: charles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj

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