Farmer-friendly pro­gram pushed

Manila Times - - Business Times - EIREENE JAIREE GOMEZ

A NA­TIONAL credit pro­gram for farm­ers is be­ing pur­sued by the gov­ern­ment to lib­er­ate them from loan sharks and in­crease their pro­duc­tion.

The ab­sence of credit pro­grams in many parts of the coun­try pushed farm­ers and fish­er­folks to loan sharks and lo­cal traders who slap “atro­cious” in­ter­est rates, ham­per­ing greater in­come for them, Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Em­manuel Piñol said.

This is worse at times when lo­cal traders “cor­ner the farm­ers’ pro­duce dur­ing har­vest time, buy­ing them at prices they dic­tate,” Piñol added.

Once re­ceived, farm­ers usu­ally use the bor­rowed money to buy seeds, fer­til­iz­ers and other farm in­puts. They also in­tend to pay for la­bor and per­sonal needs like tu­ition fees and hos­pi­tal bills.

“As a farm boy my­self, I saw this ‘mon­ster’ gob­ble up the dig­nity of the farmer, who lit­er­ally has to beg for the ‘cash ad­vance’, which also has wrapped him in eter­nal hand-to-mouth- ex­is­tence and poverty,” Piñol said.

To ad­dress this, Piñol said the DA- Agri­cul­tural Credit Pol­icy Coun­cil (ACPC) and the NFA will im­ple­ment the cash ad­vance credit pro­gram for rice farm­ers, in­clud­ing ten­ants with the con­sent of landown­ers, who will sell their pro­duce to the NFA.

“There will be ‘no col­lat­er­als’ [ but the bor­rower will be charged] with a ‘ser­vice fee’ of 3 per­cent payable after ev­ery har­vest or in six months. Mean­ing, if his cash ad­vance is P50,000, he will only pay a ser­vice fee of P1,500, which is a far cry from the 10 per­cent per month in­ter­est rates im­posed by loan sharks and lo­cal traders,” Piñol ex­plained.

He said the farmer could regis­ter in­di­vid­u­ally and does not have to be­long to a co­op­er­a­tive or as­so­ci­a­tion. How­ever, he should be is­sued with a cash ad­vance book­let to record his bor­row­ings and pay­ments, Piñol added.

He said the pro­gram will serve as a vari­ant of DA’s Pro­duc­tion Loan Easy Ac­cess ( PLEA) which lends to farm­ers, fish­er­men and their wives funds up to P50,000 at 6 per­cent in­ter­est.

“Given the 97 per­cent re­pay­ment rate of the PLEA, I be­lieve this “cash ad­vance” Pro­gram of DA- ACPC/ NFA will be an­other in­no­va­tion which will in­crease farm­ers’ pro­duc­tion, lib­er­ate him from loan sharks and lift him up from poverty,” Piñol said.

“The ‘cash ad­vance’ pro­gram will be im­ple­mented as soon as the guide­lines are for­mu­lated,” he added.

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