Banking agents, a blessing for farmers in the North

Angura Begum, a 45-year-old farmer from Mithapukur upazila in Rangpur, was seen beaming as she sold her vegetables at the local farmers’ center last Sunday.

She had a sense of relief about her that day as she sold her fresh cucumbers at the wholesale price of Tk 14 per kilogram without facing any trouble.

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Along with her, other local farmers such as Lavli Akhter and Mohammad Mohiruddi were also seen selling their crops.

Meanwhile, wholesalers like Abdur Rahman were buying produce from farmers and loading it onto various vehicles for shipment to Dhaka.

They were all informed of the daily price of the various harvests thanks to a regularly updated price table hung on a wall in the market. The table listed local retail and wholesale rates as well as those in Dhaka markets.

Besides buying and selling crops, some farmers had come to conduct financial transactions at the local bank branch of Bank Asia while others bought fertilizers and machinery from the market.

Located in Pairaband union under Mithapukur upazila of Rangpur, Pairaband Farmers Center is a place where local growers always get a good deal for their produce.

Bank Asia partnered with Voluntary Service Overseas and Syngenta to establish 20 farmer centers in two northern regions – Dinajpur and Rangpur – under the “Growing Together” project, which ended in December 2019.

Today, the project is run by local entrepreneurs who have formed committees.

Farmer Lavli Akhter said she came to the center to buy various inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and machinery, such as rice threshers and tillers.

In addition, farmers can benefit from transport services from the site.

“Without paying any extra transportation cost, we can easily sell our fresh vegetables to the center. At the same time, we can buy the necessary agricultural items,” said Angura, a mother of three.

Angura, who is the only earner, went through a financial crisis just three years ago.

But in 2019, as a sharecropper, she started potato farming on 40 decimal places of land after taking out an agricultural loan of Tk 35,000 from a Bank Asia banking officer.

Angura sold all her potatoes to earn Tk 76,000, with which she bought a cow for Tk 42,000. Now she has taken out another loan of Tk 50,000 at 4% interest.

“It was my great support to continue the cost of raising my three children,” she said, adding that without the loans she would have been forced to move to Dhaka in search of a livelihood. bread.

Just a week ago, another farmer, Mohammad Mohiruddin, took out an agricultural loan of 50,000 taka from the Bank Asia outlet with a 4% loan. In the current season he also took land from Atiar Rahman as sharecropper and he has to pay Tk 150 per decimal.

“Before, I took 16% loans from another non-governmental organization, which was a burden for me,” he said.

Azizar Rahman, head of the farmers’ center, said they now had 960 members.

After the project ended, he and other farmers continued to operate in the center.

“The Farmers Center was established as a one-stop solution for farmers where they connect to input and produce markets, avail agricultural machinery from rental shops and financial support through agent banking outlets as well “said Rumana Akhter Tulee, program manager of the project. .

“The center also provides them with physical spaces where farmers can access quality inputs such as seeds, crop protection products, rent simple farming equipment, get necessary advice and aggregate crops,” Tulee said. , one of the assistant vice presidents of Bank Asia. .

Md Ruhul Motin, Senior Assistant Vice President of the Lender’s Agent Banking Division (Communication and Development), said that through the Pairaband Center, local farmers can get fair prices as prices are updated daily.

“There is no possibility of deceiving anyone from here,” he added.

Md Nura Alam Siddeke, SEO and Head of Rangpur Branch of Bank Asia, said that they strive to provide financial assistance to farmers at the right time and keep them engaged in farming all year round in the Rangpur region.

“We have already helped 15,000 farmers in Rangpur and disbursed about Tk 38 crore in agricultural loans among them since 2018,” he added.

Contacted, Shahnaz Akter Shahin, Head of Agricultural Credit Department at Bank Asia, said they have so far disbursed agricultural loans of Tk 168.1 crore to 43,102 farmers through their agent network banks across the country.

“These include agricultural production, fishing, poultry farming, dairy farming and cow fattening, and loans for the purchase of agricultural machinery,” Shahin added.

Bank Asia introduced agency banking in Bangladesh in 2014 to provide much of the country’s formal unbanked banking services.

When contacted, Md Arfan Ali, Chairman and Managing Director of Bank Asia Ltd, said he wants to reach out to rural and marginalized people in every corner of the country to support them through banking services.

“As the pioneer of banking agents in Bangladesh, we have already established contact with 80,000 rural people in Rangpur and Dinajpur, and 15,000 farmers have directly taken out agricultural loans,” Ali said.

“We aim to set up a financial kiosk in every village in the country by expanding the network of banking agents to open bank accounts for anyone capable,” he added.

Michael J. Birnbaum