Indian banking sector, which is already grappling with the mounting bad corporate debt, has reported an increase of 38.2% in agriculture loan defaults for fiscal 2017-18, despite a hike in minimum support prices (MSPs) by the central government and agricultural loan waiver schemes by several states. Though the increase in MSPs has come much later, the proposal for it was in place for quite some time.
According to the loan defaults data by the Reserve Bank of India, which the central bank provided in its reply to an RTI application filed by The Indian Express, the banks have seen NPAs in farming sector rising by over Rs 23,000 crore to Rs 83,153 crore as compared with Rs 60,161 crore in the financial year ended on March 2017.
In the list of the banks that reported highest farm loan defaults, SBI, Canara Bank, PNB, HDFC Bank and Bank of Baroda stood on the top, The Indian Express reported. Since April, 2014, when farm sector NPAs were Rs 34,082 crore, the banks have registered incremental bad loans of approximately Rs 50,000 crore, the data showed.
Though bad loans in agriculture sector have zoomed, there was only a marginal increase of about 4.39% in farming loan disbursal to Rs 11,63,253 crore in the last fiscal from Rs 11,14,313 crore in the previous fiscal 2017, as per the RBI figures.
Earlier, the RBI governor Urjit Patel had cautioned against increasing loan waivers for farmers by state governments, saying that agricultural loan waivers will have an impact on the balance sheet of lending institutions, finances of states and interest rates.
Approximately 70% of the agriculture loans are crop loans, which account for about 67% of the outstanding loan amount, and majority of the crop loan holders had outstanding loans upto Rs 1 lakh with an average loan amount of Rs 44,088.
Besides, nearly 39 million accounts were held by small and marginal farmers with land holding of upto 2 hectares, of the total 77 million agriculture credit accounts. Crop loans had a share of over 75% of their total loan amount for small and marginal farmers, according to an RBI study.
The Narendra Modi government has set a target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022, in order to improve their economic conditions. For the sowing season of 2018-19, the government has decided to fix the MSPs of at least 150% of the cost of production for all the kharif crops. The increase is quite huge than the average in the past few years and will have an impact on headline inflation and food inflation, RBI said.