A.J. Vinayak

Mangalore, Jan. 11

THE Union Finance Minister's directive to double agriculture lending in the next three years seems to have made bankers look at every possible opportunity to attract farmers.

Many of the banks are looking at `kisan melas' (agriculture fairs) for marketing their crop loan products.

Bank stalls, which are common in trade fairs, were a rarity at agriculture fairs till a year ago.

At the recently concluded Krishi Mela at Kateel in Dakshina Kannada district, the stalls had all that a farmer needed.

State Bank of India, Corporation Bank, Syndicate Bank and Canara Bank had set up stalls at the event.

According to bank officials, such fairs help them market their products to a large number of target customers, though the result is not guaranteed immediately.

A farmer who picks up a brochure at the fair will discuss about the product with his family members and approach the bank for financial assistance.

Such fairs help banks in familiarising potential customers with their products, they say.

Apart from marketing the loan products, SBI also took the initiative to educate farmers on crops, dairying and poultry farming.

Questions were not only limited to crop loan products. There were also queries on housing loans, vehicle loans (other than tractors and tillers) and gold loans.

Whatever the product may be, the interest rate is the deciding factor for farmers to opt for it.

Officials say that most of the farmers wanted higher rates of interest for their deposits and lower rates for loan products.

Farmers, who visited these stalls, were happy that at least banks are looking at them by setting up stalls in agriculture fairs.

However, their quick comment was that banks should also set up stalls at village fairs, if they are really interested in achieving their target.

They also praised the use of the local language in the preparation of brochures.

Young farmers, who feel that there is a lot of scope for these banks to improvise, say that there should be demonstrations on ATMs at agriculture fairs in the future.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 12, 2005)
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