Farmer-friendly program pushed
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.