The Department of Agriculture (DA) has approved an initial P1-billion loan assistance for the use of marginal farmers and fisherfolk as well as agri-fishery micro and small enterprises (MSEs) to help them cope with the adverse effects of the enhanced community quarantine on their livelihoods as the country continues to battle with the spread of the new coronavirus.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a statement on Friday that the financing program aims to increase farm productivity and ensure food sufficiency even during the COVID-19 situation.

The loan facility will provide small farmers, fishers and agri-fishery MSEs with their needed working capital so that they can continue operations amid the Luzonwide lockdown.

Under the program, eligible SMEs (single proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or cooperative/association) may borrow up to P10 million at zero interest, payable up to five years.

Individual farmers and fishers may also avail themselves of a P25,000-loan without collateral at zero interest, payable in 10 years. Only one borrower is allowed per farm or fisher household.

Those who will participate in the agency’s Kadiwa program, however, will be given priority.

“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,” Dar said.

“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,” he added.

The DA will be distributing the loans through its credit arm, the Agricultural Credit Policy Council, and through its 230 existing lending conduits nationwide.

These include government banks, rural banks, cooperative banks, cooperatives, viable NGOs and associations.

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