A NEW loaning program of the government is seen to augment the province's bid to boost farm mechanization in Negros Occidental.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, in his Facebook post on Tuesday, said the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) loaning program with an initial fund of about P4 billion is now being offered to stakeholders of agriculture and fishery sectors in the country.
Under the program, individual borrowers may avail a maximum of P1 million and P5 million for associations and cooperatives.
Provincial Agriculturist Japhet Masculino Wednesday said the additional source of the fund will augment the existing Production Loan Easy Access (Plea) program of the government, also positioned to allow farmers and fisherfolk to avail up to P50,000 in a loan.
Unlike of the latter, Masculino said the new loaning program will be coursed through the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP).
Meaning, applicant-farmers, and fisherfolk will have to deal directly with the bank agency.
“LBP would normally require many requirements which farmers hardly comply,” he said, adding that “maybe we could help them through one, asking the bank to loosen or make the process easier so that many can avail.”
Piñol said the ACEF loaning program, which was launched following a thorough review and modification by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, imposes a two percent interest rate per annum.
Managed by LBP, the program is under the supervision of an Executive Committee headed by the DA.
The members are composed of Agriculture Committees of the Senate and Congress, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, and representatives from the farmers, fishermen and other agencies.
Piñol said that under the guidelines, ACEF loans could only be used for projects in agriculture and fisheries including post-harvest and processing facilities.
"Fishermen's groups can now avail of this loan to put up facilities including cold storage," he said, adding that for farmers, they can also avail of the loan to buy farm tractors, rice and corn combine harvesters and other equipment to improve their productivity.
To assist applicants, especially poor farmers and groups in preparing the documents, the agency is set to organize teams in every province.
Masculino said the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) can also provide assistance to the farmers and fisherfolk during the application process.
It can also help the DA in campaigning the program to cover more recipients, Masculino said.
“It seems that farmers nowadays are no longer excited in availing loans, they are used to avail the projects for free,” he said, adding that the additional fund could really enable the province to jumpstart its farm mechanization program.
The Provincial Agriculturist pointed out that the current administration's direction is more on the provision of loans instead of outright distribution.
“The problem with dole out scheme is that farmers cannot choose the machineries they want unlike of loans where they can also ensure that equipment being purchased is appropriate to their needs,” he stressed.
OPA is now waiting for the guidelines on implementing the program from the DA.
In terms of impact, it is optimistic that the loaning program would hasten and strengthen farm mechanization efforts in the province.
Through mechanization, farmers are capable of reducing the cost of production resulting in higher income.
“Higher productivity and profitability will also enable our farmers to become more competitive with those in neighboring countries,” Masculino added.