Smallholder finance in the oil palm sector: Analyzing the gaps between existing credit schemes and smallholder realities

There are about 2 million smallholders cultivating 40% of Indonesia’s oil palm area. They require significant financing to establish, maintain and replant their oil palm plantations, in order to both increase productivity and improve the quality of the fresh fruit bunches. Their capacity to self-finance their plantation is limited. However, most of them are credit-constrained.

Since the late 1970s, the Government of Indonesia has introduced a number of credit schemes for oil palm smallholders. Banks and other formal institutions have also been offering various credit schemes in terms of the amount, grace period and requirements for smallholders, both individually or in groups.

Through interviews and focus group discussions in two districts, each in South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan, we found four gaps: (1) demand–-supply gaps; (2) maturity gaps; (3) risk-sharing gaps; and (4) legal gaps. Demand-–supply gaps exist where credit applications by oil palm smallholders were not approved because of issues related to collateral requirements, credit amounts, and crop gestation periods. Maturity gaps exist when only few financing schemes consider a grace period for smallholders to wait for the first harvest. Risk-sharing gaps refer to the volatility in production costs and palm oil prices that smallholders have to bear. Many smallholders do not hold proper documentation, which leads to the legal gaps that prevent them from using their land as collateral to access credit from banks.

These gaps reduce the possibility of smallholders accessing credit from formal institutions, which drives an informal local lending market with limited credit amounts and higher interest rates. The government and financial institutions must address these gaps in order to improve formal credit access for smallholder oil palm farmers.

Author(s): Sahara; Haryadi; Kusumowardhani, N.

Year: 2017