FARMERS in Davao region are asking the Department of Agriculture (DA) to include palay, corn and vegetables in its loan program for small farmers.
Under the Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA), only four commodities are covered for Davao region: cacao, mango, onion and garlic.
PLEA is a special credit program implemented through the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC), an attached agency of the DA that synchronizes all credit policies and programs to support the agency’s priority programs.
“It [PLEA] is designed for marginal and small farmers and fishermen to have access to a fast, convenient and affordable credit. It has low interest rate of only 6 percent per annum or 0.5 percent per month,” ACPC program development management chief Noel Clarence Ducusin said.
In a meeting held on February 28 in Davao City, Ducusin said PLEA offers non-collateralized loans for agri-fishery production through cooperative banks, cooperatives, farmers and fishers organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as credit-delivery conduits in extending loans to marginal and small farmers and fishermen.
In the Davao region, one of the accredited conduit banks is the Mindanao Consolidated Cooperative Bank where interested farmers can file their application for PLEA.
Under PLEA, small farmers and fisherfolk can avail themselves of a P50,000 production loan. “Except for high-value crops such as cacao, farmers can borrow up to P150,000,” Ducusin said.
“Initially, we [ACPC] will not engage with rice [production], as there are already existing interventions, such as Sikat Saka of the Land Bank of the Philippines [LandBank],” he added.
Sikat Saka is a program that offers a direct-credit window from LandBank and integrated support to small-palay farmers to improve creditworthiness and viability of their crop production.
Roger Gualberto of the Vegetable Industry Council of Southern Mindanao (VICSMin) also asked DA officials to include vegetables in the loan program, as most of their members are small farmers.
“If we talk of marginal farmers, among them are the vegetable farmers tending only a small parcel of land to produce vegetables,” he said, adding that VICSMin already prepared a resolution for vegetables’ inclusion in PLEA.
DA Regional Director Ricardo Oñate Jr. said palay and vegetable farmers could submit a letter of appeal to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol for the inclusion of their crop under the PLEA.
“If palay production will eventually be included, we urge our farmers to use their borrowed amount to purchase equipment and mechanize their farm production,” Oñate said.
He said labor cost is one of the major expenses incurred in palay production.
“For our farmer to be competitive, there is a need to invest on mechanization,” he said.
Davao del Sur and Davao Occidental farmers are also appealing for the inclusion of their provinces as a PLEA- covered area. While the provinces were not included in the top 10 provinces, they said numerous marginal farmers can be identified in their provinces.