THE DEVELOPMENT Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) is seeking to reorient the agricultural sector by making it more businesslike through its ‘DBJ AGRIBIZ Program – Grow with DBJ’, which is targeting micro, small, and medium-size enterprises in the sector.
“This program is going to give support to all levels of agricultural activities, including micro, small, and medium. And there is no bar, as farmers who need help to restart can benefit, farmers who need technical assistance can benefit, [and] farmers who want to expand their business can benefit,” said Pearnel Charles Jr, the minister of agriculture and fisheries, at the launch of the DBJ AGRIBIZ program at Hope Gardens, St Andrew, on Tuesday, July 19.
The minister also said that the program was created to address issues with access to affordable financing in the agricultural sector, which is a “major driver” of economic growth in the country.
Anthony Shaw, the managing director of the DBJ, said that the program would provide $1 billion in concessional loans for micro, small, and medium-size farmers to restart their business operations. Farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs will be able to access loans up to $30 million at an interest rate of 8.75 per cent for up to 10 years, with a moratorium of up to one year.
These loans will be accessible through a network of financial institutions and microfinance institutions islandwide.
The DBJ AGRIBIZ Program also aims to support micro farmers with technical assistance to help them gain access to financing.
“We will provide workshops designed to increase the financial inclusion of micro farmers in the formal financial sector. The program will see micro farmers strengthening their financial awareness and increasing their understanding of the importance of good financial choices, and improve their overall business practices,” added Trisann Crosbie, marketing manager of the DBJ, in a product information presentation at the launch.
She said that the program, in partnership with AgroInvestment Corporation, would also include support for farmers to develop business plans, financial statements, mentorship, and product formulation.
The program also aims to help with improving the gender gap in the industry by providing an annual scholarship for two students at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education. This scholarship is valued at up to $500,000 and at least one student is required to be female.
“We want to see Jamaican women as commercial farmers, policymakers and agricultural scientists,” said Shaw.
He added that the DBJ’s research showed that there were thousands of female farmers in Jamaica, the majority of whom are subsistence farmers.
“While the DBJ is committed to developing our human resources, we are especially driven to increase our support to women in agriculture,” Shaw stressed.
The DBJ also hopes that through its AGRIBIZ Programme, it can also help with digitizing farming operations and recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the fallout from the geopolitical tension in Europe.
– Pink Sonae