Villar questions loan program for farmers
A lawmaker questioned the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) latest policy shift that would scrap the agency’s subsidy programs to give way to a credit financing program for local farmers.
At a Senate hearing on the agency’s budget on Monday, Sen. Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, said she could not “allow a policy-making body to give out money.”
For 2019, the DA proposed to increase the allocation for its credit arm by about 217 percent to P3.5 billion from P1.17 billion this year.
It saw a 10 percent reduction for its 2019 budget to P55.99 billion from P62.48 billion this year.
According to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, the shift was a bid to save the government billions of pesos, adding that subsidy programs bleed the government dry every year.
This is in contrast with access financing which, according to the secretary, has been welcomed by farmer cooperatives. The agency has also noted good repayment rates from local producers.
The DA’s current loan programs showed promising repayment rates by farmers at 100 percent and 96 percent for beneficiaries of the Program for Unified Lending in Agriculture (PUNLA) and Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA) program, respectively.
Villar said the agency must focus on mechanizing the country’s farmers to entice the younger generation to go into agriculture. /cbb
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