This study is an exploratory analysis of the impact and accessibility of formal agricultural credit to small-scale farmers, based on data collected from a sample of farmers in two regions of South Africa’s Limpopo Province. The main aims of the research were to: -- Determine the impact of credit and its shadow price. -- Investigate the efficiency of the rural financial market. -- Determine the characteristics and factors that influence the accessibility of credit in the small-scale farming sector, as well as the differential access to credit within the sector. The results of the study indicate that productivity differs between borrowers and non-borrowers. The difference of 40% in favour of borrowers is caused both by credit use (21%) and the farmers’ inherent characteristics. Thus, credit can increase a randomly selected farmer’s output b 21 per cent. The marginal credit return rate is 2.10 at zero loan, implying a 110 per cent shadow price of capital. The hypothesis that non-borrowers are credit constrained is empirically supported. The marginal credit effect at mean loan size is 1.35, indicating that the average loan size is below income-maximising size. This implies that loan-quantity rationing is still prevalent among borrowers, and that it is possible that borrowers may still be liquidity constrained but to a lesser degree than non-borrowers. The estimated shadow-price of credit (35%) exceeds the average interest rate (18%) also suggesting that the rural credit markets in the survey areas are not o9perating in the most efficient manner. It also indicates that the farmers in the study area can afford to pay the prevailing market interest rate. About 29.4% of the farmers sampled for the study had access to formal credit. More than 57% of the credit used by small farmers comes from informal credit. Access to formal credit is also highly skewed, and shows greater ease of access for large farm size than smaller groups. Factors such as area cultivated, family labour, title deed, non-farm income, remittances and pensions (social benefits), awareness of the availability of credit, and repayment records are found to be important variables in predicting accessibility of credit to small scale farmers in the study area. The main findings are: -- Small-scale farmers have limited and differential access to credit; those with holdings approaching commercial size are better-off. -- Rural agricultural financial markets are inefficient. Borrowers and non-borrowers alike are credit constrained. -- Credit is not too expensive to be used profitably; it effects on productivity can improve the welfare of small-scale farmers. In view of these findings, the following policy proposals are suggested. Firstly, the policy of not providing interest rate subsidies for loans is justified. Credit subsidisation, with its unfortunate history, should be avoided. Secondly, there is the need to restructure costly and poorly performing rural financial institutions to effectively and efficiently provide the needed services to its clientele. To ensure rapid credit delivery, it is also imperative that agricultural institutions are encouraged to decentralise their activities. Expansion of banking outlets is one of the most important surge factors affecting financial services. In addition, policy makers should also focus on critical elements of the financial infrastructure, such as the information system and training facilities, which are necessary for the development of the rural financial system in South Africa. Finally, the threshold for entry into the financial market is simply too high for many. Hence, creating a conducive environment in rural areas is one of the areas that will require more attention. Investment in rural infrastructure will also act as catalyst for the establishment of some of the missing institutions that cause market failures in rural financial markets.
Thesis (PhD (Agricultural Economics))--University of Pretoria, 2006.