AN ADDITIONAL P1.44 billion was transferred to the Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) by the Department of Agriculture (DA) for a lending program targeted at farmers, fisherfolk and agripreneurs.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said the lending program, known as the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF), can now lend out nearly P6 billion to the targeted beneficiaries.

“The fresh funds augment the previous P4.50 billion the DA has cumulatively entrusted to LANDBANK, being the administrator of the ACEF lending program,” Mr. Dar said.

The DA said the ACEF lending program focuses on increasing the production and incomes of farmers and fisherfolk through credit to purchase agricultural equipment, facilities and farm inputs.

LANDBANK President and Chief Executive Officer Cecilia C. Borromeo said the bank has approved P3.68 billion worth of projects under ACEF, with P796 million worth of applications still being processed.

ACEF-funded projects are concentrated in the Cagayan Valley and the provinces of Occidental Mindoro, Nueva Ecija, Isabela and Capiz.

The DA said that farmers in Northern and Central Luzon have availed of ACEF loans amounting to P1.4 billion, followed by Mindanao at P923 million, Southern Luzon at P704 million, and the Visayas at P693 million.

Individual farmers and fisherfolk can borrow from ACEF up to 90% of their total project cost, not exceeding P1 million, while farm cooperatives and associations, and micro and small-scale enterprises may borrow up to P5 million at 2% interest per annum.

The DA said that 80% of the funds in ACEF go to loans, 10% to research and development grants to accelerate the commercialization of agricultural and fishery products, and 10% to scholarships for studies in agriculture, forestry, fisheries and veterinary medicine.

Implemented in 1996, the ACEF loan program will end in December 2022 and is funded by tariffs and duties collected on imports of agricultural products except rice.

Mr. Dar said he plans to ask the Department of Budget and Management for another P2.1 billion for ACEF. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave