The Fiji Development Bank (FDB) team met with two Ministries last week to strategically map out collaboration opportunities to strengthen its contributions towards the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and agriculture sectors in accordance with its mandate.
FDB Chief Executive Mr. Saud Minam briefed the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Co-operatives, SMEs and Communications, Hon. Manoa Kamikamica of the Bank’s efforts to assist MSMEs in sustaining and expanding their operations.
While providing an overview of the Bank’s portfolio, Mr. Minam stated that in the last 18 months, the number of customers has more than doubled from 4,500 to over 9,000. He also stated that MSMEs and agriculture now account for 94% of the Bank’s portfolio.
Mr. Minam reaffirmed FDB’s commitment to developing financial solutions for specific sectors of the economy, revealing that the Bank now has 24 percent female customers, up from around 16 percent in the recent past.
“These achievements in terms of our core business are a result of the tailor-made financial solutions launched in the past months. Particularly, the two new facilities which have greatly aided MSMEs – the SME Sustainability Package and the FDB Loan for Women Entrepreneurs,” he explained.
Whilst acknowledging the work of the FDB, the Hon. Deputy Prime Minister thanked the financial service provider for developing the country in areas of agriculture, commerce and industry.
The FDB team also provided a comprehensive overview of the Bank’s operations to the Minister for Agriculture and Waterways, Hon. Vatimi Rayalu.
The Hon. Minister Rayalu expressed his vision of modernizing the agriculture sector.
Hon. Rayalu also stated the importance of diversifying into non-sugar products on a larger scale. He explained that the sugar industry was well-structured in terms of supplier and buyer connections and that similar arrangements for cash crops are needed.
The move towards digitalization and the use of sustainable agricultural practices dominated the discussions along with the need to address issues such as labor shortage and aging farmers through mechanization and other relevant policies.
CEO Mr. Minam advised the Minister that FDB’s total agriculture portfolio stood at 35%, equivalent to 3,188 customers. “The Bank’s agriculture portfolio has the most customers, with sugarcane accounting for the majority, followed by root crops, livestock and fisheries. In terms of regional breakdown, the North has the most customers at 57 percent, with West being second at 27 percent, followed by Central/Eastern at 17 percent,” he said.
In order to boost growth and production for non-sugar products, Mr. Minam stated that the bank developed special facilities for ginger and rice farmers under the Agriculture Value Chain Financing (AVCF) which connects farmers to suppliers. Due to its success, the Bank intends to create similar facilities under the AVCF for other non-sugar products.
The CEO also discussed the Digital Financial Literacy Program which the Bank launched earlier this month in collaboration with Visa. This Program was well received and appreciated by both Ministries because it plays an important role in educating our people about the fundamentals of financial management. From the FDB perspective, we would like to expand our services to a greater audience through our Digital Financial Literacy Program.
The CEO, Mr. Minam thanked both Ministers for sharing their vision towards strengthening the economy’s two most important sectors.
“We will collaborate closely with both Ministries to identify gaps in these sectors and the challenges that our people face and will devise appropriate solutions,” Mr. Minam added.