Amid the continuing challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, the Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Credit Policy Council (DA-ACPC), the DA’s institution on rural finance, has remained steadfast in fulfilling its mandate of promoting effective and sustainable delivery of financial services to the countryside.

In cooperation with the DA-ACPC’s program partners, the agency released more than P5.39 billion in loans last year to 95,943 small farmers and fisherfolk (SFF) and 396 agri-fishery-based micro and small enterprises (MSEs) and farmer/fisher organizations (FFOs) nationwide under all ongoing ACPC credit programs.

“The DA-ACPC’s credit programs, such as the Kapital Access for Young Agripreneurs (KAYA), Agrinegosyo (ANYO), and SURE COVID-19, have helped beneficiaries across the country to recover from the damaging effects of the pandemic and other calamities,” said DA Secretary William D. Dar.

Secretary Dar serves as the Chair of the ACPC Governing Council and spearheaded the launching of the said credit programs, which offer interest- and collateral-free loans to SFF, MSEs and FFOs.

“We salute our farmers and fisherfolk who play a vital role in boosting food production to attain higher levels of food sufficiency for the country,” the Agri chief said. “It is crucial to provide them with accessible, timely and affordable assistance to finance their agri and fishery ventures.”

With the intensified implementation of its credit programs, the DA-ACPC was able to provide financial service access to an additional 73 unbanked municipalities, increasing its reach to 436 out of the 496 total unbanked municipalities in the country and contributing to financial inclusion.

As a support component for the agency’s credit programs, numerous loan applicants, especially young agripreneurs and start-up businesses, underwent capacity building programs including Business Plan Preparation, Financial Literacy, Simple Bookkeeping, Entrepreneurship, Effective Sales and Marketing and other relevant training to help make their projects feasible and successful.

In 2021, the DA-ACPC also collaborated with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for the conduct of research studies including Countryside Bank Survey, Development of a Credit Scoring Model for Farmers and Fisherfolk, and The State of Financial Inclusion of Farmers and Fisherfolk. These are in addition to the several ongoing DA-ACPC policy and action researches (Project ASCEnD, Small Farmers and Fisherfolk Indebtedness Survey, and Mid-Term Evaluation of the PLEA and SURE Programs) aimed at increasing the flow of credit to the agriculture and fisheries sectors.

The DA-ACPC also strengthened its digitalization efforts for its various programs and internal processes. These include the enhancement of the online application portal called the ACPC Access for easier facilitation of loan applications; the launching of a digital platform for submission of loan disbursement reports by partner lending conduits for more efficient data reporting; and the development of the ACPC Dashboard – an interactive digital tool for credit program monitoring and evaluation.

With the continued mobility restrictions imposed due to COVID-19, the DA-ACPC utilized virtual platforms for info dissemination campaigns orientations, training and other activities. Among these were the conduct of the ACPC Policy Forum, the holding of the AgriCREDITalk webinar series, National and Regional Info Caravans, and Agri Business Pitch, and the participation in the BSP’s Financial Education Stakeholders Expo.

In the same year, the agency also launched various publications such as the State of Agricultural Finance 2020, Enabling Rural and Agricultural Finance for Inclusive Development in the Philippines Book Series and the Compendium of Agri-Fishery Credit Programs.

In its continued pursuit for quality, transparency and excellence, the DA-ACPC has also maintained its ISO 9001:2015 Certification which further helped them provide timely, responsive, sustainable and effective credit policies and programs to small farmers and fishers through a globally recognized process-based management system approach.

Further, the DA-ACPC received an unqualified opinion from the Commission on Audit for its 2020 financial reports, signifying that the government funds handled by the agency were used judiciously and prudently. 

“Under the astute and skillful leadership of its Governing Council and the Management Committee, we, at the DA-ACPC, are committed to work harder this year to do our part in achieving the common goal of a food secure and resilient Philippines with empowered and prosperous farmers and fisherfolk,” said DA-ACPC Executive Director Jocelyn Alma R. Badiola.