“Nung nabalitaan namin na magkaka-lockdown, natakot kami,” recalls agripreneur Elmer Relente. “Hindi namin alam kung kami ba ay magpapatuloy pa sa pagpo-produce at pagdi-distribute ng aming gulay dahil natatakot din kaming mahawa,” he added.
Elmer, together with his wife Ellen, own and manage Anpilo Agri Farm, which grows fresh, organic fruits and vegetables in the lush, cool, green, mountain of Calaca, Batangas. Along with other agri and fishery micro and small enterprises, the eight-year-old farm of the couple was heavily-affected by the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) due to COVID-19 in the second quarter of 2020.
“Bumaba ang aming benta. Konti nalang kumuha yung aming wholesaler,” Elmer narrated. “Nagkaroon kami ng work stoppage alinsunod sa request ng Barangay para maiwasan ang hawaan,” the agripreneur added.
Before the pandemic, Anpilo supplies fruits and vegetables to restaurants in Manila but was forced to stop due to mobility restrictions, according to Elmer.
With all the challenges brought about by the global health crisis, Elmer knew he needed financial assistance to continue his agribusiness and while looking for opportunities online, he stumbled upon SURE COVID-19 for Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs), a loan program by the Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Credit Policy Council (DA-ACPC).
“Nakita namin yung SURE COVID-19 na tumutulong sa mga micro and small enterprise kagaya namin. Nag-apply ako via email at sumagot naman ang ACPC di katagalan,” shared Elmer. “At simula noon nakumpleto na namin ang mga requirements at lumabas ang aming financial assistance at no more than two months,” he added.
The SURE COVID-19 offers working capital loans to agri-fishery MSEs to continue operations, help recover losses and ensure the availability of food supply amid the community quarantine. Eligible MSEs may avail themselves of up to P10 million loan at 0% interest and payable in five (5) years, inclusive of a one-year grace period.
Under the loan program, Elmer was able to avail a zero-interest P2 million loan in which a huge chunk was used as working capital to expand his vegetable farm. He was also able to purchase a hand tractor and a sorting facility for his farm with the loan granted.
“Sa zero interest, nagulat ako. May ganoon ba talaga? Nonetheless sinubok ko at totoo pala at malaking bagay yun para sa amin,” exclaimed Elmer. “Nung nakita ko yung terms and conditions ng loan, sabi ko, ito yung fitted sa agrikultura, ito yung makakasagot sa pangangailangan ng magsasaka ng mahabang panahon,’’ added Elmer, who worked as corporate accountant for more than 30 years.
“Umaani na kami ng tatlong toneladang kamatis. Hindi lang nito na-increase ang aming capability, na-improve pa yung quality ng aming mga products,” said Elmer, adding that though he lost his market in Metro Manila, demands in Batangas and Cavite fortunately increased.
“Kumita ka na, nakapag-provide ka pa ng gulay sa mga palengke sa murang halaga at the same time natulungan mo pa rin yung mga tao. Wala kaming binawas na tao during pandemic,” shared Ellen. “Dahil sa aid na nakuha namin sa DA-ACPC marami kaming na develop na other facilities na hindi lang short term. Eventually, it will also help us in a long term basis,” she added.
Greatly encouraged by the government’s support, Elmer and Ellen resolved it in their hearts to not only to survive but even thrive and give back to the community amid the pandemic.
“Na-realize namin kami pala ‘yung isa sa mga front liners dahil wala ng kumikilos at kailangan may pagkain sa mesa. At yun ay talagang sinalubong namin ng buong-buo. Sabi ko sa misis ko ‘sige gawin natin, tuloy natin, magtanim tayo, magbahagi tayo ng gulay, pagkain.’ Supportive naman ang Department of Agriculture sa pagbibigay sa amin ng access sa mga checkpoint,” narrated Elmer.
Today, Anpilo employs 10 regular workers and around 20 laborers during harvest time. Elmer is setting his sights on further expanding the farm into an agri-tourism farm.
“Ang kagandahan sa agri-tourism bukod sa pagpapakita ng magandang lugar at pagpapakain ng masustansyang pagkain ay ang pagbabahagi na ang agrikultura ay hindi isang mahirap na bagay,” said Elmer.
“Ito ay isang bagay na dapat nating yapusin, isang bagay na dapat nating alalahaning napakahalaga hindi lang sa ating katawan hindi lang sa ating pamilya, kung hindi sa ating bansa at pangkalahatan,” he added.
Elmer Relente and his wife, Ellen, own and manage Anpilo Agri Farm in Calaca, Batangas, which is one of the beneficiaries of the DA-ACPC’s SURE COVID-19 Loan Program.
Former accountant-turned-agripreneur Elmer Relente of the Anpilo Farm grows organic vegetables and fruits which he supplies to Metro Manila and nearby provinces.