SIBALOM, Antique – The strict quarantine imposed by the government due to the Covid-19 pandemic played a key role in a former overseas worker’s “refreshed” source of income.
Just like everybody who became unsure of how things will turn out as a result of the lockdowns, watermelon farmer Annie Suela found herself in a predicament as to how she and her two children will survive.
But thanks to Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK), her two-hectare watermelon farm managed to survive despite the COVID-19 lockdowns.
A former Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) in Hong Kong, Suela heard over the radio about LANDBANK’s offer of low interest rates and simpler requirements for small farmers.
“In December 2019, Ms. Suela was granted a credit line under the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) loan program to finance the needs of her watermelon production. This also led to job generation for farm workers in their area who help prepare and till their farm,” said LANDBANK Iloilo Lending Center Head Inocentes Y. Ypanto, Jr.
The ACEF fund facility, administered by LANDBANK, allows micro and small enterprises, farmers’ and fishers’ cooperatives and associations, as well as individual farmers to borrow up to 95 percent of total project cost. The funds can be used to purchase farm input and equipment or acquire/establish agri-based production and processing machineries, equipment and facilities.
Suela recounted that she had a hard time keeping her watermelon farm afloat. With the limited transportation in the province resulting from the lockdown, Suela’s programmed deliveries to Manila and Boracay were disrupted.
“Grabe yung experience namin dahil sa lockdown. Kahit ang dami naming pananim na watermelon, wala kaming kinikita dahil wala talagang bumibili at walang bumi-byahe sa mga terminal. (We experienced difficulties because of the lockdown. Nobody wants to buy our watermelon and any means of transporting our produce to the markets practically stopped),” Suela said.
But these challenges did not break her spirit. Even with the lower profit and logistics issues, she continued to look for ways to sell her watermelons. On top of that, she also ensured that her outstanding balance with LANDBANK were paid in full to be eligible for a re-loan that she has been eyeing even before the pandemic.
“Kahit na pandemic, sinikap ko talaga na makapagbayad kasi gusto ko mapanatili yung credit line ko sa LANDBANK para sa farm namin. Nag-focus kami sa pagbebenta ng mga vegetable para mabayaran yung balance namin. (Despite the pandemic, I tried my best to pay our loan obligation so I can maintain our credit line with LANDBANK. We focused on selling vegetables instead),” Suela explained.
For Suela, ACEF was a welcome development for their financial needs compared to the usual unfair terms of illegal moneylenders. She is also is thankful for taking the leap with LANDBANK as it served as her safety net, especially during the strict lockdown period.
“Malaki ang pasasalamat ko sa LANDBANK kasi ang bilis din ma-approve ng re-loan ko kahit may pandemic. Within four days, na-credit na agad sa account ko yung loan kaya may pang-capital na ulit kami. Kung wala ang LANDBANK, hindi ko na alam kung saan kami kukuha ng pangsimula ulit. Madali silang kausap at laging handang tumulong sa katulad kong small farmer. (I am thankful to LANDBANK because despite the pandemic, our re-loan was approved immediately. The loan amount that will be used for capital was credited to our account in just four days. I wouldn’t know where to get the funds to restart operations without LANDBANK. They are always willing to help small farmers like me),” Suela said.
Suela and her family are slowly getting back on their feet as quarantine protocols nationwide are relaxed. Aside from the loan she availed from LANDBANK, she is also grateful for the financial literacy workshops and the technical trainings she received from the Bank and the Department of Agriculture to help her better manage the farm.
She is also aiming for higher goals. Suela said she is interested in another loan program that will help her mechanize her farm and increase productivity of both the watermelon and vegetable farms.
Interested borrowers of the LANDBANK ACEF loan program may contact the nearest open LANDBANK Lending Center or Branch nationwide, or call LANDBANK’s customer service hotline at (02) 8-405-7000 or at PLDT Domestic Toll Free 1-800-10-405-7000.