Agro-Investment Corporation and the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will facilitate farmers in Manchester, St Ann and St Catherine accessing financing through the Rio Tinto Alcan Legacy Fund (RTALF).
Established in November 2011 by Canadian outfit Rio Tinto Alcan Inc (RTA), the fund seeks to increase lending to low-income households in the three parishes through a loan guarantee fund and provide training through scholarships to students pursuing studies in agriculture.
The RTALF also fulfils the Canadian bauxite company’s commitment to the Government of Jamaica, the National Workers’ Union and the communities in which is engaged in mining to promote rural development in Manchester, St Ann, and St Catherine by investing in social and economic development.
As the appointed manager of the RTALF, the DBJ will provide partial collateral security to farmers borrowing small business loans not exceeding $500,000.
At the signing of the MOU, Agro-Invest CEO Dr Al Powell, while welcoming the DBJ into the partnership, said, “this collaboration will seek to guide the development of synergies between both entities in agriculture and agri-business.
“The corporation is committed to supporting vulnerable groups within the agricultural sphere which includes women, youth and persons with disabilities and this partnership with the DBJ will allow for easier access to finance through loan guarantee funding for these groups,” he continued.
For its part, Agro-Invest will assist farmers in developing business plans and financial analyses, as well as preparation for screenings and site verifications. It will also foster the training of farmers across its agro-parks, agricultural production zones and wider farming networks.
Farmers can access loans for crop and livestock production, agro-processing, greenhouse farming, irrigation, energy loans associated with farming projects, working capital, and equipment purchase through any of DBJ’s approved financial institutions or microfinance institutions.
Loan guarantees under the RTALF must not exceed 80 per cent of loans or a maximum $400,000 for up to two years. Farmers should reside in St Ann, Manchester or St Catherine to access loans, must be engaged in agriculture for a minimum one year, be registered with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, and have proof of ownership or right to operate on the land.