Banana industry in Region 12 seeks financing assistance for farmers, fisherfolk from gov’t

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/16 Sept) — Banana industry stakeholders in Region 12 are pushing for the reopening in the region of a government credit facility for small farmers and fisherfolk.

In a resolution, the Soccsksargen Banana Industry Council (Sobic) urged the Department of Agriculture central office, through Secretary Emmanuel Pinol, to facilitate access for farmers in the region to the Agricultural Fisheries Financing Program (AFFP).

Ecclesiastes Roque Jr., Sobic chairperson, said local farmers were not able to access the credit facility as the DA channeled the funds for the area to the government-owned and controlled People’s Credit and Finance Corporation (PCFC).

He said the PCFC already closed down its office in Region 12 and has not assigned a representative for the area.

“Because of that (closure), our access to the AFFP funding was also cut off,” Roque said on Thursday at the sidelines of the two-day 2016 Regional Banana Congress here.

The government released an additional funding of P2 billion to the AFFP last year as approved under the 2015 national budget.

The funds were set for use in credit facilities for “unbanked and underbanked sectors in agriculture” under the Agro-Industry Modernization Credit and Financing Program.

Part of the funds were channeled to the agri-finance and agri-microfinance facilities under the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and the PCFC.

Since the PCFC no longer covers Region 12, Roque said the funds should be transferred instead to the LBP.

He said the area’s small banana farmers or those who have plantation areas of three hectares and below will greatly benefit from such move.

“There are a lot of farmers right now who want to shift to banana production but lack the required funds,” Roque said.

In Region 12, the average production cost for a hectare of banana plantation is currently at around P250,000.

DA-12 and Sobic are currently working on the expansion of banana plantations in the region to cope with the growing demand in the domestic and foreign markets.

Region 12 has around 32,800 hectares of banana plantations that produce 1,159,091 metric tons annually.

North Cotabato hosts the region’s biggest banana plantation area at 16,212 hectares, followed by South Cotabato with 9,080 hectares, Sarangani and this city with 3,808 hectares, and Sultan Kudarat with 3,700 hectares. (MindaNews)