The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has signed a $14.2 million loan agreement to support the expansion plans of Sylvan Agriculture Ltd (SAL), a Pran-RFL Group company.
The assistance will finance new food processing facilities to produce potato chips, potato flakes, and pasta, said PRAN, one of the largest food and agribusiness companies in Bangladesh, in a statement yesterday.
Under a gender action plan, women will comprise at least half of the 450 people to be employed in the new facilities in the Habiganj industrial park. Gender wage gaps will be reduced, women's facilities introduced, and greater technological assistance provided to women farmers.
Agriculture plays a key role in Bangladesh's economy and development, providing nearly half of all employment in the country and supporting more than 70 percent of the total population, said Tushna Dora, investment specialist for private sector operations of the Manila-based lender.
This is the second assistance from the ADB to SAL and also the bank's first repeat assistance to a private sector borrower in agribusiness.
In 2012, the bank had approved a $25.1 million loan to SAL for the construction of processing facilities, including for liquid glucose and starch made from cassava sourced from contract farmers.
“The ADB's second loan to SAL will further improve the agribusiness sector in Bangladesh through increased private sector investment. It will enhance the livelihoods of thousands of local farmers, with a focus on empowering women to gain new skills that can be used to earn better incomes,” Dora said in the statement.
Potatoes for the new processing facilities will be sourced from about 2,000 contract farmers, integrating them in a sustainable agricultural value chain.
The project is expected to increase contract farmers' income by at least 50 percent as they introduce new potato varieties, expand the area they cultivate, and benefit from the assurance that their production will be bought by SAL, the statement said.
Uzma Chowdhury, director for corporate finance of PRAN-RFL Group and Christopher Thieme, deputy director general of the ADB, signed the agreement at a city hotel in Dhaka on Tuesday.
Ahsan Khan Chowdhury, chairman and CEO of PRAN-RFL Group, Eleash Mridha, managing director of PRAN Group, and Cai Li, deputy country director of the bank, were present at the programme.
PRAN produces more than 500 food products under 10 categories and is one of the largest private employers, with more than 100,000 staff. In addition, the group has engaged with about 100,000 contract farmers.