STATE-RUN Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) saw its loans to the agriculture sector increase by 0.55% to P237.62 billion last year.

The bank said in a statement on Thursday that loans to the sector went up from the P236.31 billion disbursed in 2019.

Of last year’s total, 60% or P142.75 billion was lent to small, medium, and large agribusiness enterprises, 21% or P50.89 billion went to local government units (LGUs) and government-owned and -controlled corporations for their agriculture projects, and 19% or P43.98 billion assisted small farmers and fishers, cooperatives and farmers’ associations, rural financial institutions and other conduits.

The loans reached 2.67 million farmers and fisherfolk nationwide, beating the bank’s 2020 target of two million.

“The year 2020 was undoubtedly a challenging one, but LANDBANK remained steadfast in its commitment of delivering intensified support to the country’s agriculture sector. We will continue to address the specific requirements of more farmers, fishers, and other players in the local agribusiness value chain amid the pandemic and beyond,” LANDBANK President and CEO Cecilia C. Borromeo was quoted as saying. 

The bank served as conduit for the lending programs of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for farmers and fisherfolk.

As of end-2020, it released P8.36 billion for the credit financing programs of the DA, such as the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, the Socialized Credit Program under the Sugarcane Industry Development Act, the Expanded Rice Credit Assistance under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, and the Survival and Recovery Assistance Program for Rice Farmers.

Meanwhile, P600 million was disbursed under the DAR’s Credit Assistance Program for Program Beneficiaries Development.

LANDBANK mainly provides credit to the agriculture and fisheries sector, micro, small and medium businesses, countryside financial institutions, LGUs, and government institutions.

Republic Act 10000 or the Agri-Agra Reform Credit Act of 2009 mandates banks to set aside 15% of their loanable funds to the agriculture sector and 10% for agrarian reform-related projects.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas data showed banks once again failed to comply with the minimum lending requirement for these two sectors in the third quarter of 2020. Lenders only released a combined P662.62 billion from July to September 2020 against the required agri-agra credit allocation of P1.627 trillion. — B.M. Laforga