Netherlands-based Rabobank NA is aiming to grab 10-15% of the Canadian farm lending market within 15 years, as it aims to shake up a sector dominated by government and domestic banks, its new Canadian agricultural head told Reuters on Wednesday.
Canada’s status as the world’s fifth-largest agricultural product exporter makes the country of 38 million people attractive to Rabobank, which specializes in global food and agriculture lending.
“To be an ag and food lender, you would be remiss if you weren’t in Canada,” Roxane Lieverse, Rabobank’s head of Canada Agricultural Banking, said in an interview. “We believe we have a sweet space coming in.”
Still, Rabobank is expanding into farm loans in a country that has proven tough for foreign lenders, resulting in many global institutions retreating in recent years. In November, HSBC became the latest foreign bank to seek to leave Canada, when it announced the sale of its Canadian unit to Royal Bank of Canada for C$13.5 billion.
It took Rabobank a decade before deciding to expand into Canadian farm lending, taking a methodical approach, Lieverse said.
The market share goal is “a very big stretch,” but attainable given Rabobank’s expertise, said Lieverse, who previously worked in Bank of Nova Scotia’s agriculture banking program.
Rabobank expects Canadian farm lending to be profitable from the start and plans to announce hiring plans shortly, she said. Many Canadian farmers prospered last year as wheat and canola prices spiked due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Rabobank did not release its estimate of the value of the Canadian farm lending market, but government agency Statistics Canada pegged 2021 farm debt at a record-high C$129 billion, with chartered banks accounting for 37%. On that basis, Rabobank’s market-share goal could be worth C$19 billion, although farm debt is steadily rising.
Farm Credit Canada, owned by the Canadian government, is the biggest agricultural lender, controlling a market share of about one-third, Lieverse said.
Rabobank will initially focus on farm lending in the Prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, offering loans for land and equipment purchases, operations and sustainable initiatives, such as installing biodigesters to produce renewable natural gas.
Its selling point to farmers is its global reach, giving it an edge over Farm Credit and the big six Canadian banks, including RBC and Bank of Montreal, Lieverse said.
Rabobank’s presence in the United States and Mexico, for example, would help a Canadian farmer finance cattle movement across borders in the highly integrated North American beef industry, she said.
Rabobank operates in 38 countries, with 74.2 billion euros’ worth of loans to the global food and agriculture sector.
Rabobank has operated in Canada since 1997 and already offers services such as access to debt capital, private placements and loans to large agribusinesses like feedlots and dairies.