Discussants at a Prothom Alo roundtable on 7 December 2017.Experts have suggested the extension of bank loan programmes by distributing digital cards among marginal farmers as an initiative to increase their earnings.They made the suggestion at a roundtable organised by the Bangla daily Prothom Alo at its office of Karwan Bazar in the capital on Thursday. Care Bangladesh supported the event moderated by Prothom Alo associate editor Abdul Quayum.Bank Asia in association with Dhaka Ahsania Mission, Care Bangladesh and USAID provides up to Tk 20,000 as loans through digital cards to marginal farmers.A farmer has to have 50 decimals land or two cows and a bull to avail the loan facility. The farmer with a digital card can purchase agriculture inputs through designated retailers.The experts said the farmers can take the loan at 9 per cent interest rate and can pay the loan at their convenience.Chief of party of USAID Agricultural Extension Project at Dhaka Ahsania Mission Bidyuth K Mahalder said around 1500 farmers have received digital cards and availed the loan facilities. Around 1500 farmers have also been registered for digital cards, he added. This bank loan has been introduced in three districts – Khulna, Faridpur and Bhola.Card user Khaleda Begum said she has to face various problems to get a loan and the interest rate was very high. After getting the digital card, I have increased the rice production and raw jute production too as I purchased seeds and fertiliser in time, she said.Agriculture goods retailer Md Shajahan said he had to sell agricultural implements on credit and there was a risk. Now I can sell the goods and receive payment by cards. The sale of agricultural goods has increased by over 40 per cent, he claimed.Chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation and also economist Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad said the disbursement of bank loans through the digital cards is an innovative idea.He said such an initiative has to be continued for maximum benefits from the innovative loan programme.Kholiquzzaman said, Only financing will not make the programme sustainable, and it requires training for proper use of the loan.Emphasing the marketing of agricultural products, he warned that the farmers may be affected if they do not get due prices of their produce.Planning commission senior secretary Shamsul Alam said, Undoubtedly it is a good initiative and I want its extension. The security of cards has to be maintained so that the farmers are not affected.President and managing director of Bank Asia Md Arfan Ali, director of Extreme Rural Poverty Programme of Care Bangladesh Anowarul Haq, project management specialist of USAID Mohammad Sayed Shibli, executive director of Dhaka Ahsania Mission M Ehsanur Rahman and executive director of Society Development Committee in Faridpur Kazi Ashraful Alam, among others, spoke at the roundtable.