Credit ratings give farmers access to capital

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ZHENGZHOU – Autumnal equinox, one of the 24 solar terms of the Chinese lunisolar calendar, fell on Sunday, and for millions of Chinese farmers it’s special – it marked China’s first Farmers’ Harvest Festival, which was created by the central government to honor the country’s farmers.

China’s major grain-supplying areas have entered harvest season, and Jia Jianyu, a 36-year-old farmer in Henan province, is busy picking honeydew melons. He once lived below the poverty line.

Jia began to cultivate melons in 2016. In his hometown, Lankao county, the melons are harvested in spring and autumn. Total revenue from a single greenhouse can reach nearly 20,000 yuan ($2,910). The business has the potential to help him shake off poverty, Jia said.

“I wanted to expand the planting area, but I didn’t have enough money,” he said.

When the county subbranch of the People’s Bank of China completed building a rural credit information system, Jia received a rating of AA.

With the AA credit certificate, he secured a loan of 40,000 yuan from a local commercial bank. With the money, he expanded his planting area and purchased a truck. On about 1.2 hectares of contracted farmland, Jia now has 13 melon greenhouses.

His ability to obtain a loan from the bank demonstrates how financial services are helping people at China’s grassroots level as it drives to eradicate poverty in 2020.

Typically, Chinese farmers turn to friends and relatives for money, since most of the farmers have no experience dealing with financial institutions, nor do they have credit ratings.

“Since most farmers have no assets to mortgage for cash, the banks prefer to lend money to large enterprises,” said Cheng Guanhua, an official at the Lankao sub-branch of the PBOC.

However, over the past several years, an increasing amount of credit information on farmers has been incorporated into the national credit database and similar platforms, accompanied by the establishment of positive credit ratings.

The rural credit information system in Henan, for instance, has been used for 173 programs in the sectors of poverty relief, rural governance and legal matters.

According to the Zhengzhou central sub-branch of the PBOC, the system started running in March and had taken in more than 13 million farming households as of July – around 80 percent of the farming households in the province.

As the country continues to optimize its rural credit system, the financing environment in rural areas is improving. PBOC figures show that in the first half of 2018, farming household loans rose 87.4 billion yuan over the same period last year.

The expanding credit information available on farmers will help channel more capital into agriculture and help revitalize rural areas, according to Li Quan, an associate professor at Lanzhou University.

By boosting its vast rural regions, China expects to see a strong agricultural sector, beautiful countryside and well-off farmers.

Apart from Jia’s 13 melon greenhouses, he has planted additional ground with corn and peanuts.

“If I pay back all the money on time, I will have a higher credit rating, which means a more favorable interest rate,” he said.