IFC: from food to farm
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IFC: from food to farm

While much of the financing needed to support sustainable production of agriculture will come from commercial lenders and investors, another important group is the multilaterals.

Prominent among them is the International Finance Corporation. The private-sector arm of the World Bank provides investment and advisory services to agribusinesses along the full value chain directly to companies and indirectly through intermediaries. Many of these investments are small but crucial to supporting the livelihoods of thousands of producers, who fall outside the mainstream financial industry.

In India, for example, the multilateral issued a $45 million loan and made a $14 million equity investment in Jain Irrigation, the country’s biggest provider of micro-irrigation systems, which increase efficient water delivery and reach more than 2,000 farmers.

The IFC’s interest in agribusiness has grown substantially over the past few years, with its portfolio now standing at $3.9 billion. In its last fiscal year alone, it invested nearly $2 billion across the supply chain to help boost production, increase liquidity, improve logistics and distribution, and expand access to credit for small farmers. The organization hopes to double its yearly investment to $4 billion by 2014.

"We’re one of the biggest players in the sector," says Rajesh Behal, chief investment officer in the global manufacturing, agribusiness and services department at the IFC. "We look at the entire value chain from direct lines of credit to warehouse receipts, although we try to be very strategic in investing in the part of the chain where we would have the greatest impact."

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