Our Bureau

Kolkata, Jan. 4

STATE Bank of India (SBI), with a renewed thrust on agri-business funding in this fiscal, expects to touch an agri-financing figure of Rs 4,000 crore by March 2005.

Talking to newspersons here on Tuesday after participating in an interactive session organised by the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), eastern region, Mr Chandan Bhattacharya, Managing Director and Group Executive (Corporate Banking), SBI, said the bank was now funding as many as 124 agri projects (to the extent of nearly Rs 700 crore at around Rs 5 crore each), across the country.

Many of these were contract farming ones, involving items such as rice and wheat. The projects are based mainly in the northern, central and southern regions.

Citing agri-exports as one of the major future business growth areas of the bank, he said SBI was already funding modernisation of cold chains, particularly for chilling/freezing facilities, which are a must for the horticulture sector.

He said SBI was also planning to render service to the 10 new Agri Export Zones (AEZs) identified by the Government.

Earlier, addressing the eastern region exporters, he said the Gold Card product (for concessional credit) scheme introduced by SBI for exporters was the most flexible compared to the schemes offered by other banks' products.

Stating that the bank has achieved a 96 per cent increase in incremental credit-deposit ratio as on November 30, 2004 over that during the corresponding period of 2003, he admitted that the overall C-D ratio was still low, owing to a lot of slack earlier when banks could not lend even though flush with funds.

Admitting that credit delivery, especially to the SMEs, was a weak point of SBI, he said there has been a lot of improvement during the last 18 months.

Pointing out that bank funds will always follow good business opportunities, wherever they may be, Mr Bhattacharya assured exporters that there was no dearth for funds.

Pointing out that the bank's export credit turnover during 2003-04 had witnessed a growth of over 6 per cent, he said the bank's share in export credit had increased by 4 per cent in the last 3 years.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 5, 2005)
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