DISASTERS and epidemics are not good for agriculture.
Disasters cause production loss and destroy infrastructure and critical assets like machinery, equipment, production areas, storage areas, roads, and others like homes.
Epidemics can change agricultural trade flows, and cause losses both for the producers and agricultural-dependent sub-sectors in the value-chain like food processors, manufacturers, hotels and restaurants, traders, and consumers.
Disasters and epidemics, like the current Covid-19 pandemic, cause restrictions on the movement of goods and people and have repercussions on the livelihood of farmers, most especially the most vulnerable groups.
In the Philippines, the restrictions that came with the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon are necessary to limit the spread of the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
But the ECQ also disrupted the production, distribution, trade, and market of agricultural products as business establishments, schools, offices, and workplaces were closed; and consumers hunkered down in their homes.
With all its good intentions and general health benefits, the ECQ affected the livelihood of farmers and the accessibility, availability, and affordability of agri-fishery products in the urban areas.
In response, the Department of Agriculture (DA) implemented the “Plant, Plant, Plant Program,” also known as the “Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (Alpas) Kontra Covid-19? to increase farm productivity and ensure food sufficiency during the Covid-19 emergency, according to Secretary William Dar.
The projects implemented under the program to serve all farmers are: Revitalized urban agriculture and gulayan project; Additional palay procurement fund of the National Food Authority; Expanded SURE Aid and recovery project; Expanded agriculture insurance project; Social amelioration for farmers and farm workers; Upscaling of KADIWA ni Ani at Kita direct marketing program; Integrated livestock and corn resiliency project; Expanded small ruminants and poultry project; Coconut-based diversification project; Fisheries resiliency project; Corn for food project; and, Strategic communications project.
It is a good thing, there are good agricultural cooperatives on the ground who are playing key roles in the implementation of some of the “Plant, Plant, Plant Program” projects for the benefit of their members and other farmer-beneficiaries.
In the Cordillera, agricultural cooperatives are tapped in the consolidation, distribution, and marketing of vegetables, other agricultural products, and for relief operations.
Agricultural cooperatives operating and serving in the farming communities were also endorsed by the local government units (LGUs) to serve as conduits for the release of loans and including the SURE Aid loan from the DA’s Agriculture and Credit Policy Councils (ACPC). An added work for these cooperatives is to monitor the use of the loans according to the intended purpose and to collect loan repayments.
The SURE Aid loan, as the Plant, Plant, Plant Program loan window to provide capital to farmers is currently releasing SURE Aid loans at 25k, 0 interest, and 10 years to pay to cut flower farmers in Benguet to help them pay for fixed costs and income losses arising from the cancellation of special events, gatherings, weddings, and orders of cut flowers.
Simultaneous to this is the release of SURE Aid loans to vegetable farmers as well by seven of our partner-cooperatives in the province, reported Jocelyn Badiola, ACPC executive director.
A total of 1,648 cut flower farmers from La Trinidad, Benguet was certified and endorsed as eligible farmers by the Department of Agriculture-Cordillera (DA-CAR) OIC-regional executive director Cameron P. Odsey on April 23, 2020, to apply for a loan under the Expanded Survival and Recovery (SURE) Aid Program. The DA-ACPC has already started releasing the loans for the town’s eligible SURE loan applicants.
Last week, the agency has also started the processing and/or release of SURE Aid loans to cut flower growers from Atok, Sablan, Tuba, and Tublay, Baguio City, and vegetable farmers in Bokod, Itogon, Kabayan, and Kapangan who were validated and eligible to receive their SURE aid loans.
As gleaned from the reports of Ms. Krystle Ann Balingan, ACPC focal person for CAR, cooperatives are serving as lending conduits of the SURE aid loan Krystle aside from the Producers Savings Bank Corporation (PSBC).
Ms. Balingan has expressed confidence with the ACPC’s partner cooperatives in Benguet. Some served as the agency’s lending conduits since 2018, and all reported 100 percent repayment on the due date of the loans.
The cooperatives tapped by the ACPC as lending conduits are: Mountain Blooms, Atok, Benguet; Tawangan Agrarian Reform Community MPC, Kabayan, Benguet; Treasure Link Cooperative Society, La Trinidad, Benguet; Doers MPC, Tublay, Benguet; and Bokod Sulphur Spring MPC will cater to farmers from the municipalities of Bokod, Kabayan, Itogon, and Kapangan.
The town of Tuba will be serviced by the Producers Bank Baguio Branch, while Baguio City will yet submit its cooperative Sure aid loan lending conduit.
By now, the DA-ACPC may have proven that agricultural cooperatives who have earned the trust of its members, the leaders of the community, and other farmers are reliable lending conduits in its quest to provide affordable, accessible, and sustainable credit for small farmers and fisherfolk nationwide. With ACPC, these cooperatives are actively working for the welfare of their members and the farming sector to provide credit at very minimal requirements and low-interest rates. The farmer-friendly credit windows allow members adequate time to pay off their loans, and to re-avail loans after every lending cycle.
Kudos ACPC and our agricultural cooperatives. This expression is cliché but it applies well here - “keep up the good work” folks!