Banking & Finance

Rabobank looks to increase Asia’s food output under US$1 billion finance initiative

The Dutch bank’s joint funding programme with the United Nations targets increased food production, stable prices and higher living standards for the region’s farmers, its Asian chief says

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 October, 2017, 2:23pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 October, 2017, 11:15pm

Dutch bank Rabobank is hoping its US$1 billion programme launched with the United Nations to boost food production worldwide will also help farmers in Asia increase productivity, its regional chief executive said.

Under the three-year “Kickstart Food” programme announced earlier this month, Rabobank plans to lend money to clients and partners worldwide who can help improve farmers’ knowledge and production techniques to cut costs, boost food productivity and stabilise prices.

Diane Boogaard, chief executive for Asia at Rabobank, told the South China Morning Post in an interview that the Asia region will be a key part of the initiative. Almost three-quarters of the world’s farmers live in Asia, but most have low productivity and farms are small and fragmented.

“Asia is an important food area as a region. The region has half the world’s population and represents 40 per cent of global agricultural output and consumption,” she said, noting that China, India and Southeast Asia will be essential areas to help the bank grow.

“We want to see an increase in agricultural productivity in a sustainable manner, and to reduce food waste in all agricultural supply chains across Asia to ultimately help Asian farmers make a living,” Boogaard said.

As an example, soybean imports in China have more than tripled over the last 10 years to 92 million tonnes, representing 65 per cent of total imports of the commodity worldwide. If there were programmes to help Chinese farmers visit major producer Brazil or other markets to learn about new production techniques, it could help upgrade their knowledge, she said.

“The programme is not a pure charity but it is a finance programme and network to help solve the world’s shortage of food. Our target is to increase food production by 60 per cent while reducing the sector’s environmental footprint by 50 per cent by 2050,” she said.

Rabobank has a focus on the food and agriculture sector, and offers loans to farmers as well as trade finance and other hedging tools related to global food production and trading.

In Brazil, it has worked on a programme to restore degraded arable land under the management of Brazilian farmers owning 17 million hectares. Similar programmes will be prepared in Africa.

“We have an increasing population worldwide while we have less land for agricultural production. The only solution is to develop new technology to enhance productivity and cut down waste,” she said.

“There are more than 800 million people going hungry at present and more mouths will need to be fed in the future. This is why technology in food production is important.”