By Mike U. Crismundo

BUTUAN CITY – The Department of Agriculture, through the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (DA-ACPC), allocated P62.5 million assistance to farmers and fisherfolks in the Caraga region whose incomes were affected by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The loanable fund is under DA’s Ahon Lahat Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) Kontra sa COVID-19 or the Expanded SURE Aid and Recovery Project (SURE COVID-19). This emergency and recovery credit assistance program would respond to the needs of the marginalized small farmers and fisherfolks (MSFF) and agri-fishery based micro and small enterprises (MSE).

Under the SURE COVID-19 loan program, eligible farmers and fisherfolk may borrow up to P25,000 per household, with no collateral, zero interest, and payable in 10 years.

“The fund would help our farmers and fisherfolk recover from their losses during this quarantine period,” said DA-Caraga Regional Executive Director (RED) Abel James I. Monteagudo.

The region’s top DA 13 official said that this initiative from the DA helps our food producers continue their agri-fishery activities and contribute to a sustained food production.

The available loanable fund for the region can cater to at least 2,500 farmers and fisherfolk and DA-ACPC targets to release the funds by the end of May 2020, he said.

On the other hand, eligible MSEs may avail of up to P10 million, zero interest, and payable in five years. These enterprises may be a single proprietorship, partnership, corporation, cooperative, or association.

DA will prioritize the MSEs that will supply the Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita outlets or the ones that participate in the Kadiwa on Wheels program that serves identified barangays in different municipalities and cities in the region.

The Kadiwa on Wheels is a DA-initiated marketing strategy where MSEs, farmers’ and fisherfolk groups sell their produce directly to consumers at reasonable prices.

DA-ACPC records a total of 10 MSE applicants so far from all over the region. It taps its network of partner lending conduits to implement the SURE COVID-19 loan program.

The partner conduits include rural banks, cooperative banks, cooperatives, and viable non-government organizations (NGOs) and associations that provide accessible and affordable credit to the borrowers in the countryside.