February 18, 2015 - 140 participants, high-level government representatives, heads of banks and financial institutions, industry experts, agribusinesses, donors and investors participated in the in the round-table discussions organized by CBS in partnership with USAID, where were presented the achievements of AgroCapital’s, the project that helped farmers get $4.7 Million of financing within the first year of the activity. Minister of Agriculture Mr. Edmond Panariti, Ambassador of the United States of America to Albania Mr. Donald Lu, Director of USAID Mission to Albania Mr. Marcus Johnson, representatives of the EU Delegation to Albania were part of the event. The project also used the conference as an opportunity to launch the new agricultural and environment information portal, agroweb.org and the first online loan referral system lores.al.
Both the Minister of Agriculture and the US Ambassador attend the event to support the program. They appreciate the work that has been done to implement it and vow continuous support for Albanian agriculture.
Minister Panariti: AgroKapital extreemely important, a catalyst for agriculture financing
Minister of Agriculture Panariti is congratulatory towards AgroCapital while emphasizing that “additional significant efforts must be made to increasing investments and financing”. As a result AgroCapital is a very important instrument. It comes from the invaluable contribution of the USA through USAID for a development of sustainable agriculture he says. Funds exist Panariti says, but there is a need for engagement with the banking sector to make the investments possible. These funds and grants aim to be catalysts of the loan giving process, which is currently being revitalized, because lending before has been very low. Programs like AgroCapital help strengthen the trust towards banks or micro financing institutions from farmers and the agriculture sector. This program will bring an extraordinary impulse to the financing of agriculture and generate 1,150 employment opportunities by helping families in the rural areas’ he said.
In partnership with USAID we are starting an initiative to empower the greenhouse sector, Panariti said. He also discusses the last flooding damage affecting the south-eastern rural areas and declares that the Albanian Government will bear the cost of €1.5 million loans that 1,000 affected farmers are unable to pay due to flood damage.
US Ambassador Donald Lu: We thank CBS and encourage the government and Non-for-Profit organizations to undertake legal reforms to make the crediting process more transparent
The US Ambassador to Albania Mr. Donald Lu who addresses the gathering in Albanian and startds by expressing sadness for Albanian families who lost their farms and cattle as result of the terrible flood. “We hope that the American help offered through USAID will support these families and will help in the restoration of these important agricultural zones,” Mr. Lu says. These floods have damaged crops, cattle and houses, but I know that they have not damaged the strong will and the spirit of the Albanian people. We are happy to support AgroCapital through USAID, a project which is helping many farmers and agribusinesses in their national grant schemes of the Albanian Government provides.
“But there are yet many businesses which need more access to capital in order to grow. We also know that legal reforms are necessary to make the loan giving sector more transparent. We encourage the government and the non for profit sector to focus on these reforms. I thank CBS for their incredible work with the farmers and financial institutions which are with us today, for the distinction of the increasing potential of the sector,” said Mr. Lu.
CBS: LORES and AGROWEB – the new products of 2015
Enio Jaço, Executive Director of CBS, explains that AgroCapital owes its success to a new set of solutions bridging a gap between agribusinesses and financing institutions. “Through AgroCapital support, a total of $5.4 million was injected into the Albanian agro economy,” said Jaco. “The program is ambitious. We plan to facilitate $14.8 million in financing for Albanian agribusinesses, stimulate revenue growth of $28 million and generate 1,150 new employment opportunities.”
AgroCapital also supported 25 farmers and agribusinesses with applications to EU IPARD-Like funds, 21 of which were contract winners representing a high 85% process quality. The funds AgroCapital helped release are significant - a 40% of total national IPARD-like funding, the most important EU assistance program in agriculture.
But the key to success of the program are innovative solutions to bring the agribusiness and financing communities closer together. Mr. Jaco presented two new AgroCapital products for 2015. LORES, is the first automated web-based loan referral system to connect banks with referral agents for agro loans. The system which will be open to banks in the second quarter 2015 is expected to increase financing by 50%. The second platform is AGROWEB.ORG, an informative internet portal set to become the homepage of agriculture and environment in Albania.
The innovation is the essence of development, even in the agricultural sector, Alberto Prestopino the Head of the Retail Division in Intesa Sanpaolo Bank, said. This round-table is an important inclusive platform where all the actors get together to bring concrete solutions to the issues of the financing of Albanian agriculture. We value these two innovative products and look forward to partnering with CBS during 2015. Adela Leka, spokesperson for ProCredit Bank Management Board - the most experienced bank in agro lending - is equally supportive of AgroCapital. Getting key actors working together is another key to success of the program. CBS implements its financing targets by working closely with financing institutions and agribusinesses. We serve as a bridge to financing, says Jaco. “LORES, the new referral system will reinforce that bridge”.
Suela Popa, Director of ARDA, the payment agency implementing the EU funds through IPARD-like grants stresses that funds are not fully absorbed. Ms. Popa asked banks about the possibility of giving loans with favorable interest rates to farmers, which are partly covered by the funds of the grants. She congratulates CBS for the high quality business plans and application documents, which have a higher quality level compared to other applications she says. Ms. Popa wishes to replicate the experience through the implementation of 2KR program, a zero % interest rate for qualifying investments with environment and recycling elements.
A major issue raised by participants is the blocking of construction permits from the Government and asked AgroCapital to support them with this issue. How can you invest when you have no permit to build, they ask? Despite the constructive criticism, the event is dominated by a rare sense of optimism and desire to collaborate. Even agribusinesses are more focused on finding opportunities than objecting to the government.
Mr. Donald Lu, US Ambassador to Albania delivering his remark at the conference: 'We are happy to support AgroCapital through USAID, a project which is helping many farmers and agribusinesses in their national grant schemes of the Albanian Government provides.'
Minister of Agriculture Mr. Edmond Panariti during his remarks valued the role of AgroCapital as an incredible impulse in agriculture financing
Executive Director of CBS, Mr. Enio Jaço presents project achievements during 2014 and new developments of 2015: lores.al and agroweb.org