During 2018, Latin America, our region of operations, continued to experience similar challenges as the previous year, while also encountering new ones. In addition to ongoing adverse weather conditions, unexpected political turmoil affected one of the Company’s key growth drivers. Mid-April marked the beginning of the worst political crisis in Nicaragua since the Sandinista revolution in the late 1970s. This crisis brought the economy to a halt and reversed any growth indicators. Consequently, in order to protect its investment in the country, LAAD decided to support only existing clients and will continue to do so. The effects of inclement weather experienced in 2017, including El Niño in Peru and hurricanes in the Dominican Republic, still linger in the countries. Despite these challenges, LAAD surpassed its 2017 operational results in both loan disbursements and net income levels. These record levels were fueled by 339 new loans disbursed in 15 different countries. Total disbursements reached over US$287.9 million. The projects financed by LAAD in 2018 created 10,940 new jobs and US$265 million in foreign currency for the region.
Projects involving bananas generated the highest total disbursements for the year at 11%. Soybeans, coffee and cattle followed with 10%, 9% and 8%, respectively. These four product categories represented 38% of total disbursements, while the remaining volume was constituted by various other products. As a result, LAAD’s agribusiness loan portfolio grew by 16% on a year-to-year basis, reaching a record US$847.6 million at the end of fiscal year 2018.