1,648 cut flower farmers in La Trinidad get aid

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A total of 1,648 cut flower farmers from La Trinidad, Benguet can now process their loan application under the Expanded Survival and Recovery (SURE) Aid Program after having been duly certified and endorsed as eligible farmers by the Cordillera office of the Department of Agriculture (DA-CAR) OIC-Regional Executive Director Cameron P. Odsey on April 23, 2020.

The masterlist of cut flower farmers was duly endorsed by the municipal government of La Trinidad to the department on April 20, 2020 for crossmatching to the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture or RSBSA and eventually for certification and endorsement to the Agricultural Policy Credit Council.

Farmer-beneficiaries are from Beckel (404), Bahong (318), Alno (268), Ambiong (149), Bineng (137), Shilan (134), Lubas (114), Wangal (86), Alapang (20), Tawang (13), and Pico (5).

Each farmer-borrower will be receiving up to Php25,000.00 loan at zero-interest rate, no collateral requirements, and is payable within 10 years. The loan will be used to at least cover their overhead cost during the ECQ period and it may also be used to engage in other income-generating activities to offset or compensate their losses.

“The loan is purposely for the cut flower farmers to recover from the effect of ECQ; for them to start their farm operations because definitely, they incurred losses as they were not able to sell their products,” Regional Technical Director for Operations and Loan Facilitation Team (LoFT) Leader Danilo P. Daguio said. These cut flower farmers were heavily-affected by the mobility and marketing restrictions due to the ongoing Luzonwide enhanced community quarantine or ECQ.

On the other hand, Agricultural Credit and Policy Council (ACPC) focal person for CAR Krystle Ann Balingan said that the Producers Savings Bank Corporation (PSBC) which serves as the lending conduit is open since last week to assist the farmer-borrowers for the orientation, loan application and loan release. She added that the processing of applications took a while due to the ECQ restrictions and ensuring that every farmer was validated prior to inclusion in the Masterlist.

Starting April 24, each farmer-borrower personally transacted with the bank, but just yesterday, April 27, with the new COVID-19 cases reported in the municipality, a new scheme was strategized to prevent the farmers from leaving their homes.

As per message of the PSBC, the barangay captain or his/her authorized representative is allowed to process the loan forms with complete requirements with the bank on behalf of the cut flower farmers. After assessing, the Bank will inform the concerned barangays on the schedule of loan release for individual farmers.

“The bank will not entertain individual farmers this time. Loan transaction will only be thru the barangay captains or their representatives,” Balingan stressed.

The barangay captains will be closely coordinating with the loan beneficiaries for the filling out of loan forms and collecting thereafter for submission to PSBC.

As of April 27, the PSBC has already released SURE Aid loan to 88 cut flower farmers.

Ms. Balingan said that the releasing of loan is bounded by some restrictions and considerations such as the need to secure special pass to transact with the lending conduit (bank) for the processing of loan, the need to arrange transportation for farmers who will be receiving their loans to and from the bank and that the bank can only cater to a smaller number of farmers in a day to ensure that COVID-19 health protocols, particularly proper social distancing, is observed.

“The cut flower farmers should not be discouraged because this is a calamity which was unforeseen. Everything happened abruptly, so they should make use of the financial loan to start anew and recover with their businesses,”  Daguio added.

For other municipalities, ACPC is currently making arrangements with the local governments to provide special passes to farmers to enable them to transact with lending conduits for the processing of their loans.

Prior to the loan release, the affected cut flower growers were enlisted and validated by the municipal governments through the Office of the Municipal Agriculturist. The validated masterlist of farmers was endorsed to the DA-CAR on April 20, 2020 for crossmatching and eventually for certification and endorsement to ACPC. Finally, the ACPC endorsed the certified masterlist to PSBC for loan processing and release.

The SURE Aid loan also known as Covid-19 loan window is part of the DA’s Plant, Plant, Plant Program or the Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) Kontra Covid-19 Program that aims to increase the country’s food adequacy level.

By Janice B. Agrifino
Photo by Armando M. Bolislis