Government readies release of P1.5 billion farmers’ assistance fund

Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - August 31, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The government is set to implement its P1.5 billion loan assistance program for farmers to help ease the impact of lower palay (unhusked rice) prices.

The Department of Agriculture-attached agency Agricultural Credit and Policy Council and the Land Bank of the Philippines recently inked an agreement to roll out the Expanded Survival and Recovery Assistance Program for Rice Farmers (SURE Aid).

SURE Aid will provide a one-time loan assistance of P15,000 to rice farmers tilling one hectare and below at zero percent interest rate payable in eight years.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said SURE Aid is a financial assistance that is affordable for the small rice farmers as they just need to set aside P1,875 per year to pay off their loan.

“Credit is such a very important strategy to make it possible to develop and grow Philippine agriculture. Credit must be affordable, accessible and the ease of doing business will be our principle in terms of simplifying the process for the common farmer,” Dar said.

“As part of the SURE Aid program, the National Food Authority will buy all their palay harvest,” he said.

Land Bank will administer the P1.5 billion fund, while DA-accredited service conduits will be tapped to disburse loans to eligible beneficiaries particularly in unbanked and unserved areas.

The program will initially benefit farmers listed in the the recently updated and validated Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture.

RSBSA is the national database of farmers, fishers and other farm laborers, which contains basic information including location and size of farm.

“LandBank is fully on board to work with the DA in making great things happen for our farmers and fishers,” Land Bank president and chief executive officer Cecilia Borromeo said.

The DA originally planned to provide P3,000 to P5,000 to some 1.1 million rice farmers tilling one hectare of land and below which would cost the government P6 billion.

SURE Aid aims to provide loan assistance for immediate relief to rice farmers affected by the reduction or loss of their farm income. It also intends to help rice farmers regain their capacity to continue their production.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that farm gate prices have declined by 23 percent or P5.30 per kilogram to P17.85 from their peak in September 2018 at P23.15. 

Prices may further drop in the next main harvest season.

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