THE DEPARTMENT of Agriculture (DA), through its Agriculture Credit Policy Council (ACPC), has approved an initial P1 billion for loans to help the sector amid threats to food security caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said in a statement the allotment is part of the agency’s Expanded Survival and Recovery Assistance Program for Rice Farmers (SURE Aid) and Recovery Project.

The loans will provide working capital to ensure continued operations for farmers, fisherfolk, and agri-fishery micro and small enterprises (MSEs).

This will also support DA’s P31-billion “Plant, Plant, Plant” initiative meant to make basic agricultural commodities more accessible and affordable.

“The idea is to provide emergency and production capital requirements for our marginalized sector, whose operations and earnings were severely affected by the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon,” Mr. Dar said.

Under the expanded loan program, eligible MSEs (single proprietorship, partnership, corporation or cooperative/association) may file a loan up to P10 million at zero interest and payable up to five years.

On the other hand, individual farmers and fisherfolk may file a non-collateralized loan of P25,000 at zero interest and payable in 10 years. However, only one borrower per farm or fisher household is allowed.

“Farmers, fishers, and MSEs who will participate in the DA’s Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita program will be given priority,” Mr. Dar said.

The ACPC has partnerships with 230 lending channels across the country including government banks, rural banks, cooperative banks, cooperatives, viable NGOs, and various associations.

“The country’s farmers and fishers, who we consider as food security ‘frontliners,’ play a crucial part in our fight against COVID-19. That’s why it is important that we continue to empower them to ensure continued production and delivery of food to our countrymen,” Mr. Dar added.

Meanwhile, DA will also launch a multi-platform system to improve the transport and distribution of agricultural products under its Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita program.

Mr. Dar said DA will implement the Kadiwa Express and Kadiwa Online systems to improve movement of basic commodities.

“We are making some adjustments in our Kadiwa program, using simple and technological solutions, to ensure continuous and unhampered supply of fresh produce to consumers, particularly those in metropolitan areas,” Mr. Dar said.

Under the Kadiwa Express system, the DA will tap local government units (LGUs) and the private sector for the transportation and distribution of agricultural products from trading centers to designated drop-off points around Metro Manila.

Kadiwa Express personnel will facilitate the transport of products from producers to offloading points where LGUs can claim their orders.

On the other hand, the Kadiwa Online system is an online order placement system that offers LGUs a direct link to potential food suppliers.

Products available in the online system include cabbage, sayote, carrots, squash, tomato, and potato.

“We are hoping that our local chief executives will take full advantage of these Kadiwa platforms, which is much needed especially in this time of crisis,” Mr. Dar said.

This is after the DA recently committed to open more Kadiwa stores and mobile produce markets or known as Kadiwa on Wheels, around Metro Manila.

Assistant Secretary for Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Services Kristine Y. Evangelista said that at least 66 additional Kadiwa sites will be opened nationwide. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave