By Zac B. Sarian

If you have a viable idea that you can pursue, the Department of Agriculture will give you a grant of P500,000. Yes, that’s free! This one is for upstarts, one of three new financing programs that the DA launched in January 2020 to encourage young people to put up agricultural enterprises. Any determined aspiring farmer is eligible for the grant. No educational qualification is required. What is important is that he has the passion and focus to pursue his idea. He will be coached by a mentor to make sure he will succeed.

The second funding scheme is called the Youth Entrepreneurship Loan Program, for folks 18 to 30 years old. Participants can borrow P500,000 with zero interest and no collateral, payable in five years. Participants should be serious in pursuing their own projects. Mentors will coach them so they will be able to achieve their targets.

The third program is the Micro and Small Entrepreneurship Loan Program for those who already have existing agri-projects. Under the program, the participant can borrow
from P300,000 to as much as P15 million, depending on the requirements of the project. This will be interest-free and no collateral is needed. The loan is payable in five years.

Young agripreneur Bro. George Maria, 23, went out of the seminary after eight years to do his own brand of
farming. He is presently the vice president for community affairs of Yamang Bukid Farm in Palawan.

Agriculture Sec. William Dar said that those who would want to avail themselves of the financing programs will undergo a strict selection process to make sure the beneficiaries will not falter. The programs are implemented nationwide. Our young aspiring agri-preneurs should take advantage of the new initiative of the Department of Agriculture to encourage young blood to go into farming as an honest-to-goodness business. The funds are under the ACPC, or Agricultural Credit Policy Council.

Back to the P500,000 grant. The grant is for young upstarts who are determined and serious to get into farming as a business. There is no educational attainment required. So better think of possible projects now so you could be among the first to receive the grant. Make sure you have a viable, sustainable and environment-friendly project.

Now, let us think of some of the characteristics of the project so that it will become profitable. The first question to ask is: What are the products that are in demand but which there are not enough supply? One example is ubi or purple yam. The Good Shepherds of Baguio are always in need of ubi for their jam and other products. One food processor from Marikina also tells us that they don’t have enough supply of the purple root crop.

Another farm product that big time processors of herbal products need in big volume is the native ginger, which has a distinct flavor from the Hawaiian hybrid in the market. There must be many other commodities that are in short supply which could be produced by the aspiring agripreneur.

Another question to consider is: Does the product you have in mind have a long shelf life? This means it is not perishable. One example is black pepper. The peppercorn can be stored for long periods.

Consider also the competition. Too much competition can cause drastic price changes in the market. Are you ready to compete? Do you know some cost-cutting techniques and ways to improve your product?

Of course, it is also very important that the crop you are going to produce is adapted to the local environment where you grow your crops or farm animals.

Ubi production could be a project for agripreneurs because it is in demand by processors.

Can you popularize something new in the market? Something you believe that has a potential market in the Philippines? One example is the Key lime, which can provide a special flavor to desserts like Key lime pie and other baked products, refreshing juice drinks, sauces for grilled fish and meat, flavorings for vodka, and others. These are just random thoughts that can be helpful. Surely, there are many more to consider.

In my post in my blog on January 20, 2020, I wrote the following two paragraphs at the end of the story to show what I would use the P500,000 grant for in case I got it.

“By the way, somebody asked me. If I were to be given the grant of P500,000 what project will I undertake? Well, there are many choices but what I have in mind now is this. If I have a two-hectare farm in my hometown, I would go for sheep as my flagship product. I will buy an initial 10 females that are ready to breed or are already pregnant. And I will add a couple of rams. This is considered starting small. Yes, that’s what I like. I will expand slowly but surely.

“I will invest in a water system that works. That will ensure production of forage and other cash crops that will help sustain the project. My long-term vision is to end up having the most number of sheep in my province. The strategy is to keep on increasing the population systematically. I will not sell any of the young females for future breeding. I will sell only the males and the proceeds will be used to buy more female breeders. I will upgrade my stocks through the purchase of improved blood.”

Now, I am imagining what my project would have become five years after I got the grant. By this time, I would have about 500 sheep. That’s possible because I am continually adding new breeding stock to my flock. By that time, people might be calling me the Sheep King in my province or even in the region. People who would like to start their own sheep projects will likely come to me for their requirements or for advice.

If the author were to choose his flagship project, he would pick sheep for a number of good reasons.

A few years later, I am imagining that the Department of Agriculture will be ordering from me a lot of male and female sheep for their dispersal program. I am also imagining that I will hire an expert in making “litson tupa” which we will cater to people holding special events like reunions, birthdays, anniversaries, and more.

By that time, I would be considered a hands-on expert in sheep raising and I could hold paid seminars for additional income. There would be so many opportunities that I could take. And all that started with the R500,000 grant for upstarts from the Department of Agriculture.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s March 2020 issue.