Isabela fish farm reels in success with LANDBANK support

LANDBANK assisted the operations of A.R. Santiago Fish Farm, owned by Arnel Santiago (left photo) in San Mateo, Isabela, which now produces 300,000 to 500,000 tilapia fingerlings monthly that are sold regularly to fish pond operators, government agencies, and other buyers in the Cagayan Valley and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

SAN MATEO, Isabela – When Cagayan Valley, one of the country’s largest tilapia-producing regions, faced a region-wide shortage of tilapia fingerlings in 1993, business graduate Arnel Santiago decided to establish his own fish hatchery to help boost local production and earn additional income.

With no prior experience in aquaculture but armed with determination to learn about fish farming, Arnel completed trainings on fish pond operations and established A.R. Santiago Fish Farm. He was able to sustain his operations until 2002, when running his business became a challenge due to lack of capital.

It was then that Arnel availed of his first loan from the Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) to purchase feeds and modern equipment such as water pumps and a backhoe, as well as a 2.4-hectare agricultural land to expand his fish farm.

Through LANDBANK’s continuing credit assistance over the years—which has since amounted to P6.4 million—Arnel’s fish production increased from an average of 100,000 tilapia fingerlings to 300,000 to 500,000 fingerlings per month.

Isang taos-pusong pasasalamat sa LANDBANK. Dahil sa tulong nila ay umasenso at napalawak ko ang aking negosyo. Nakatulong rin ako na mapunan ang kakulangan sa produksyon ng tilapia dito sa aming rehiyon,” said Arnel.

A.R. Santiago Fish Farm now supplies fingerlings to various fish pond operators and buyers in Cagayan Valley and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). The farm is also tapped by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource (BFAR) Region II and other local government units to supply fingerlings for their distribution activities to fish farmers.

With his increased income, Arnel was able to purchase a solar irrigation system to power his water pumps during daytime. This has since reduced monthly operational expenses by 30%.

“Consistent with the country’s continuing recovery, LANDBANK remains committed to catering to the financial requirements of the fisheries sector. We are assisting fishers and other key players to boost their production and income,” said LANDBANK President and CEO Cecilia C. Borromeo.

To support the local fishing industry in Isabela, Arnel offers technical assistance to new fish breeders who want to venture into the tilapia breeding business. The A.R. Santiago Fish Farm is now accredited as a ‘Learning Site for Agriculture’ by BFAR, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Arnel has also reaped various awards for his accomplishments as a fish farmer from the Department of the Agriculture (DA) and the Local Government of San Mateo.

“Gusto kong ibahagi ang aking expertise at technical knowledge sa bagong henerasyon, para masiguro ang tuloy-tuloy na paglago ng aquaculture industry sa ating bansa,” Arnel added.

LANDBANK remains to be the biggest lender to the agriculture sector, with a total agri loan portfolio of P257.94 billion and having assisted more than 3.2 million small farmers and fishers nationwide as of 31 May 2022.

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