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CAPE TOWN - The land and Agricultural Development Bank of South Africa created 15000 jobs in the agricultural sector by providing finance for emerging farmers, the state-owned lender said yesterday.

The bank, also reported a 10%rise in net interest income to R1.3billion for the year ended in March, up from R1.1billion for the same period last year, while net profit rose 13% to R347million.

The strong performance came against subdued conditions in the agricultural industry, which included the worst drought in a century and a contracting economy marred by volatile exchange rates affecting commodity prices.

Land Bank chief executive Petrus Nchocho said it made available R2billion for the year to end March through its developmental sector, which has black emerging farmers as its main beneficiaries.

“We are happy 15000 jobs in the agricultural sector were created through our involvement. However, overall we had set aside an R4.8billion loan disbursement for the period and R2billion went to emerging farmers,” Nchocho said.

Nchocho said the bank grew its gross loan book by 11% to R43.3billion, up from R39billion a year before, while managing to reduce overall costs and improving its capital, liquidity and funding positions.

The bank achieved some notable highlights during the year, including supporting farmers impacted by the drought with at least R100million under its Drought Relief Programme, which is administered in conjunction with the Industrial Development Corporation.

The bank also increased support to female farmers, with 262 loans of R161million now on its books.

This year the bank concluded two major funding transactions - a R1.3billion agricultural development facility with the World Bank and the $300million (R4billion) commercial facility supported by Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency.

The bank also obtained an unqualified audit opinion for the financial year in question, demonstrating its ongoing commitment to good governance and sound banking principles.

Nchocho said the funding represented a vote of confidence in the work being undertaken to grow the agricultural sector.

He added that the money came at the right time with the sector buckling under drought, and said the sector contracted 6% in 2015 and 7% last year.

“However, the sector is recovering with the rain in the second and third quarter last year. Crop farmers increased the area planted by 38% as a result,” Nchocho said.

- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE