Thursday| June 1, 2017
The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has included in its 2018 National budget proposal the amount of P50-billion which would be used as a seed fund for an easy access loaning program for farmers and fisher folks to improve their production.
The loaning program called Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA) program will offer a non-collateralized credit carrying a 6% interest rate per year with a maximum loanable amount of P50,000 per farming and fisher folk household.
The PLEA program will be launched by President Rody Duterte on June 23 in the town of Malimono, Surigao del Norte which is considered as one of the country's poorest fishing and agriculture area with a Poverty Incidence Per Family of 90%.
The PLEA Program is a loaning scheme which I personally conceptualised and given flesh and mechanics by the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC), an agency which handles the DAF's loaning program.
As a farm boy myself, I saw how farmers and fisher folks had to go through the pain of borrowing money from neighbours and small town traders to buy things they need for them to be able to plant and fish.
Simple things like good seeds, fertilisers, fishing boats, nets, hooks and even an initial capital to buy an icebox and ice are acquired through loans granted at usurious rates by local lenders.
While government offers lending programs through its banks, these are largely inaccessible to poor farmers and fishermen because of the requirements of collaterals and the tedious process they have to comply with.
This has greatly affected the productivity.
Under the PLEA Program, farmers and fisher folks will be registered and provided Accreditation Cards which would contain all of the information about him.
A Geo-Tagging program would also identify the area where his farm or fishing ground is located and all of this would be entered in a national data-base.
All those accredited will be covered by the Philippine Crop Insurance Program to ensure that the government financial exposure would be recovered in case of calamities.
Farmers and fisher folks who will participate in the program will also be organised so that the DAF could provide them with additional processing facilities to add value to their products and help them in the marketing.
The ACPC will then identify a local credit cooperative or a rural bank which would serve as a conduit for the loans at a rate of 6% and a commitment to release the loan applied for in a maximum period of three days.
All the credit cooperatives and rural banks which will participate in the loaning program will be included in a national network to ensure that a farmer or fisherman who has already been granted a loan by a credit cooperative in his area, will no longer be able to apply for another loan in a neighbouring area.
The 6% interest payment will go to the conduit cooperatives or rural banks.
I believe that this loaning program is what the farmers and fisher folks need to give them access to better production inputs and equipment.
This loaning program will ensure a sustained growth in the farming and fisheries sector which in the First Quarter of 2017 showed a spectacular growth of 5.28%.
This will also support our aggressive marketing campaign of Philippine products.
More than that this is expected to revitalise the rural economy and address poverty in the countryside.
A separate advocacy to make the PLEA Program a national priority through legislation has received the commitment of support by members of Congress and the Senate.
When this becomes a law, farmers and fisher folks will be assured of easy access to credit even beyond the term of President Duterte.