WHILE farm mechanization is considered a government priority to aid in the recovery of the country’s agriculture sector, Secretary Emmanuel Piñol has raised fears that equipment grants could be prone to failure and corruption.

“Honestly, I do not believe that the equipment and machineries grants program is sustainable. It is, in fact, vulnerable to corruption and political meddling,” said Piñol said in a post on his official Facebook page.

He said decaying farm level grains centers, abandoned trading posts, unused grains driers and farm equipment are testaments to mechanization efforts, which were either riddled with corruption or poor management in previous years.

While he supports mechanization in agriculture and fisheries to improve productivity and minimize post-harvest losses, the official suggested to provide them with equipment through loans instead of grants.

“The loan will be collateralized by the machineries and equipment that they will acquire and a two percent interest per year (that) will go to the local bank which would serve as the conduit and manager of the loan package,” he said.

Piñol sought the assistance of the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) Executive Director Jocelyn Badiola and the Central Agriculture and Fisheries Engineering Division to design what he called the Machineries and Farm Equipment Loans Program.

He also raised several concerns about the program.

The technical know-how of small farmers on operating and repairing farm equipment is one challenge. But with the “Makinadong Magsasaka” program of DA in collaboration with Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Piñol said this could be addressed.

The secretary also worried about the managerial and financial management capacities of farmers to properly account for the earnings of the equipment and loan ammortization.

“This is what scares me. Many government initiatives in the past failed because these concerns were overlooked or ignored,” he wrote.

The Machineries and Farm Equipment Loans Program is being piloted in Negros Oriental for the Tiempo Muerto group, where sugarcane workers obtained a P20-million loan to buy tractors, cane harvesters and trucks.