TACLOBAN CITY — More than 15,000 farmer-beneficiaries of the anti-poverty program in Eastern Visayas will be organized into cooperatives to prepare them for the policy shift in farmers’ assistance from subsidy to credit.
Department of Agriculture (DA) Assistant Regional Director for Operations Andrew Orais said Friday the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) could not be sustained if farmers would just work on their own.
“We think of organizing them since it will be easier to market their produce to institutional buyers and access loans from the government. It’s hard to monitor all of them if they are not grouped,” Orais said. “If they’re earning more from farming, they will be less dependent on the dole-out system.”
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol earlier reiterated the department’s shift from direct provision of subsidies to “easy access financing” of the agricultural and fisheries production support program starting 2020.
“We are slowly shifting from subsidy to credit and this is mainly because of the fact that we could not possibly give out free support to everybody,” Piñol said at the House of Representatives budget hearing on Thursday.
The soft loans will only have a 6 percent interest every year, Orais added.
The 15,000 farmers are beneficiaries of SAAD in the provinces of Samar, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, Leyte, and Southern Leyte.
The initiative aims to achieve a 25-percent poverty reduction within the term of President Rodrigo Duterte by providing free farm inputs for the production of rice, corn, vegetables, and livestock.
“SAAD has no big infrastructure projects because our targets are the small marginal farmers who are not beneficiaries of regular programs. These are meant for those who have not received interventions because they’re not capable of catching up with the requirements for beneficiaries,” Orais said.
SAAD has two funding components. The first will be carried out by the provincial government through funds downloaded to the local government while, the second component will be managed by the DA regional office.
Launched in 2016, SAAD is a special program of the DA focusing on the top 10 poorest provinces in the country, which include the three Samar provinces.
Leyte and Southern Leyte were included in this year’s implementation as second priority area.
Activities are focused on social preparation and provision of agriculture and fishery-related livelihood interventions to address poverty in selected provinces.
In 2018, SAAD got a budget allocation of P126 million for the five provinces.