THE Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) said it released P3.02 billion in agricultural loans in the first half, most of them via a program intended to improve the sector’s competitiveness.

As of June 30, LANDBANK released P2.5 billion worth of loans via the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) Lending Program. It extended P527.3 million under the Expanded Rice Credit Assistance (ERCA) program, which is among the activities of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

Farmers borrowing from the two programs may use the proceeds to buy farm inputs and equipment, while micro and small enterprises (MSEs) and cooperatives may employ the funds as working capital in rice and rice seed trading operations.

ACEF loans went to 19,367 borrowers, including 19,189 small farmers and fisherfolk. Some 119 were MSEs, and 59 were cooperatives and associations.

ACEF loans charge 2% per annum.

ERCA loans were disbursed to 3,115 rice farmers and 22 cooperatives. They charge 2% for direct lending. Parties that pass on the loans are not charged interest, while their end users pay up to 6%.

LANDBANK said ERCA and RCEF are authorized by Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law.

LANDBANK is one of the agencies implementing the P1-billion RCEF loan program. It has been set a target to disburse P500 million a year to rice farmers in 59 out of the 80 rice-producing provinces between 2019 and 2024.

LANDBANK President and Chief Executive Officer Cecilia C. Borromeo said that the bank has been working with the Department of Agriculture to boost support for the sector.

“Through the ACEF and ERCA-RCEF Loan Programs, we aim to assist more farmers and fishers, as well as their cooperatives and associations, so they can boost their productivity and profitability, and contribute significantly in ensuring food security in the country especially with the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic,” Ms. Borromeo said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave