Credit corporation loans to agriculture sector garner mixed responses from Jordanian farmers

Around 8,800 farmers and stakeholders in the agricultural sector were given loans to finance various projects in 201

  

AMMAN — Loans in the amount of JD27 million were granted to farmers in 2019, with some farmers calling their loans “God’s helping hand” and others calling them “a pit one has fallen into and cannot get out of”.

According to Mohammad Hayari, General Director of the Agricultural Credit Corporation, around 8,800 farmers and stakeholders in the agricultural sector were given loans to finance various projects.

“From agricultural crops to animal rearing to renewable energy used in farming, the corporation has given loans to anyone who has a project that might benefit the agriculture sector,” Hayari told The Jordan Times over the phone.

Through its 24 bureaus, the corporation has granted 3,300 farmers loans on the condition that they own or lease a piece of land, have a clear project plan and an object for insurance collateral.

“The loan of JD5,000 I got has turned my life around. I was able to build a water well, buy new trees and hire more help. In one year, my production rose from 2 olive oil tins to 27 tins,” said Ridwan Mafalha, a farmer who grows olive trees on a 10-dunum plot of land.

“It truly was God’s helping hand extended to me through that loan,” he added.

However, not everyone has been as lucky as Mafalha. A farmer in the Jordan Valley who preferred to remain unnamed told The Jordan Times that he has taken loans from the corporation, banks and micro-financing institutions to keep his farm up and running, but that he has now “fallen into a pit” he cannot get out of.

“I owe more than JD 10,000 in debts, and my farm generates very little income. I now wish I had sold it and opened a shop or invested the money instead. A loan can buy you more time, but it cannot fix the economy,” he added.

Over 23,000 farmers are in debt and wanted by the law, according to President of the Jordan Valley Farmers Union Adnan Khaddam.

The agriculture sector is “facing daunting challenges after eight consecutive seasons of losses’’, said Khaddam in previous remarks to The Jordan Times.

Hayari said that the government, and thus the corporation, “understand that farmers have been having a rough few years”.

“Our gateways to bigger markets, such as Iraq and Syria, have been blocked for years, and the opening of the borders has not proven very successful. Moreover, operation costs are high — no one can deny that,” he added.

Due to the consensus among both farmers and the government that the last few years have been “rocky” for the agricultural sector, the corporation has given bureau heads the authority to delay or decrease loan payments.

“Our goal as a corporation is to be the farmer’s backbone, so if he has a bad season or two, we cannot give up on him, especially since most of the circumstances are out of his hands,” added the director general.

Over the last 10 years, the corporation has given out loans in the amount of JD366 million, according to its latest statistics. Over the last decade, it has tried to “expand eligible candidates from farmers to anyone involved in the sector”, said Hayari.

Around 2,500 women were given JD12 million in loans for diverse projects and another JD275,000 was given to agricultural engineers who created 32,000 jobs with their projects.

Fish production projects were given JD2.4 million, around JD8.5 million was given for well-digging projects and JD800,000 was given for palm tree plantations.

“Branching away from directly related agricultural projects is the support of solar energy projects, which not only save the farmer a fourth of his energy bill but also benefit the environment and the national economy,” Hayari said.

In the last four years, around 100 solar energy projects were financed, amounting to JD1.4 million in loans.

Loans in the amount of JD7.5 million, at a two-per cent reduced interest rate, were given to “anti-unemployment” projects, which Hayari said were commercial projects that sell agricultural produce such as dairy products.

“The corporation’s interest is the national interest, so any project that can help generate profit and decrease unemployment is welcome,” he concluded.

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