INDIA has proposed bilateral collaboration with the Philippines in the areas of agricultural technology and financial technology to benefit small farmers, an agriculture industry association said.

The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, Inc. (PCAFI) said in a statement Tuesday that Indian Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu S. Kumaran recommended an exchange of technology between the two countries to improve the operations of small farms.

“The Indian government has touched base with Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III for a possible agricultural technology (agritech) and financial technology (fintech) exchange,” Mr. Kumaran was quoted as saying.

“We should have smart public policies. Food security is an absolute non-negotiable. We have lots of small and marginalized farmers in India. They find it hard to access common assets, so the government needs to come in,” Mr. Kumaran said.

According to PCAFI, the proposed bilateral meeting may happen “sometime later this year.”

PCAFI Chairman Philip L. Ong said the fintech component of the bilateral exchange could involve the group’s own Agrifood Hub technology project that links farmers with potential markets.

Mr. Ong said that since the project’s launch in July, it has linked some 37,343 farmers and 315 groups across 109 municipalities.

Philippine Maize Federation, Inc. President Roger V. Navarro proposed that an Indian financing system, the “Viability Gap Fund,” be replicated in the Philippines for financing corn storage projects.

The Indian financing system was established to fund viable projects by proponents such as small- and medium-sized farmers.

“The fund may come from the penalties imposed under Republic Act No. 10000 or Agri-Agra Law. The penalties amount to billions coming from banks that do not allocate 10 or 15% of their loan portfolios for agriculture or agrarian reform as mandated,” Mr. Navarro said.

“As of 2019, given (the level of compliance) of banks, this agri-agra law fund will have amounted to P1.384 trillion, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA),” he added.

Aside from the bilateral initiative, Mr. Kumaran also announced a $50,000 grant to the corn industry and proposed other initiatives such as a partnership in skills training; a dialogue on garlic market access; solar energy production; an exchange of integrated farming strategies; and partnerships in organic food production.

He also said that India had 1,000 agri-tech startup companies as of 2020.

“India has companies that allow banks to use geospatial data, satellite data to make informed lending decisions. You have the software, the tool which gets all data in a region. It allows banks to cut the risk and understand where and when credit dispersal is viable. They will have a constant stream of data,” Mr. Kumaran said.

“Banks are afraid to lend to agriculture activities as they don’t have mitigation strategies and risk assessment tools to determine what is viable.  But this software makes that possible. We offer the possibility that the Development Bank of the Philippines could have this tool without having to procure it. It will be free of charge.” he added. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave