Banks Cease Lending To Farmers
Issue No: 620 22 March 2001
Commercial banks have stopped lending to farmers on native land who have leases less than 10 years to run.
This was confirmed by the NLTB's Manager of Northern Division, Emosi Toga. In a letter he wrote to the Daily Post today defending the NTB, he stated: "Banks have only stopped granting further loans on agricultural leases with terms of less than 10 years to run. That is a commercial decision that banks make on their own prerogative to protect their own interests".
The admission by the NLTB that the banks will respond to protect their commercial interests, irrespective of the NLTB's posturing, is an indication that the NLTB is finally realising that it can not operate in isolation of commercial reality.
Bank lending to agricultural sector shows a steady decline since 1996. The rate of decline in 2000 was the highest ever recorded.
The NLTB insists that landowners should take over the farms which are leased to tenants, mostly ethnic Indians.
Meanwhile today's Fiji Sun has given a damning editorial on the NLTB's actions. Commenting on the decision by some landowners to agree to renew leases on their land, the paper stated: "It is a slap in the face for the [politicking] emanating from the Native Land Trust Board, other Fijian institutions and ranting politicians across the political spectrum who twist everything for their own macabre needs".
Of the tenants, the paper stated: "we must congratulate the tenant farmers for agreeing accept the lease extension.. For many [tenants] their farm, leased or not, is very much their ancestral home. They have the same respect and love for the land as the landowner."