Holding firm acquires rural bank stake for digital banking, farmer lending
MANILA — Earthright Holdings Inc. (EHI), parent firm of listed AgriNurture, Inc. (ANI), has acquired a significant stake in a local rural bank to jumpstart ANI’s plan to provide digital banking and microfinance lending services to Filipino farmers.
EHI acquired shares in Binangonan Rural Bank, Inc. (BRB) via subscription agreement to hike the bank’s capital and form a strategic alliance with AusPhil Group in launching full digital banking services within the first half the year.
The partnership would launch a full digital banking platform that aims to provide much needed microfinance to farmers, an underserved sector of the economy.
BRB was one of the financial institutions recently granted an electronic money issuer (EMI) license by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
Under the agreement, EHI shall subscribe to an increase in BRB’s capital to fund the capital expenditure requirements of BRB digital bank.
At present, the company supplies digital banking products to all sectors of society like cash and debit cards, LGU cards and transport cards with some provincial government.
The group will launch a borderless digital ecosystem with major anchor partners like ANI which will provide a ready market for local produce in the e-commerce market place. It will be launched side-by-side with the social lending platform.
Controlled by agri-entrepreneur Antonio Tiu, ANI envisions an inclusive ecosystem that would empower the agricultural sector through the issuance of electronic agri vouchers (e-vouchers). Tiu ranks 49th in the 2019 Forbes Philippines Rich List.
The cash-backed e-vouchers would allow farmers to buy anything they need to produce crops from accredited online merchants. ANI will then buy back the produce for export or the domestic market and credit payments to the farmers’ e-wallet for them to settle loans online or withdraw cash from any ATM nationwide.
Farmers can easily tap their credit using their accredited smart phone apps. The database and credit scoring system is expected to transform rural banking experience for majority of the Filipino population.
Tiu said this is a better alternative than lending cash which may otherwise be used for non farm purposes. By closing the loop, farmers will earn more with the right farm inputs. The process also achieves traceability with is key to food security.
The company stressed that their electronic vouncher is not a virtual currency and the program would not take investments from the public but would instead fund farmers’ productivity costs among accredited online merchants within the ecosystem.
ANI is one of the Philippines’ major exporters of fresh and processed fruits to the world market. At present, ANI supplies home-grown fruits such as mango, banana and pineapple to customers in Hong Kong, Mainland China, the Middle East, and organic coconut products to North America and European Union.
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