Sugar board hit for low usage of lending aid for farmers

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    GOVERNMENT auditors grilled the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) for a disappointing performance in the implementation of the P624.7 million Socialized Credit Program (SCP) in 2019 wherein only 17.83 percent or P111.37 million was released to the intended beneficiaries.

    The SCP, a lending program under the Sugar Industry Development Act of 2015 (SIDA), was supposed to help boost the production of sugarcane and increase the income of sugarcane farmers/planters and the hired farm workers.

    Funding was made available to enable beneficiary farmers to hire adequate labor and acquire farm machineries for the continuous production of sugarcane. The indirect beneficiaries were SRA-registered service centers of agribusiness machinery and equipment that also stand to gain from increase mechanization of sugarcane farms.

    Auditors noted that P324.7 million was made available to the SRA in 2016 and an additional P300 million in 2017 but only P1.57 million was released in loans in 2018 and P111.37 million in 2019.

    In its program evaluation report, the SRA said loan approval was affected by several factors, including the borrower’s attendance in financial literacy trainings and results of the soil analysis of the applicant’s farm.

    Also having an impact in program implementation was the availability of FLT trainers from the Agricultural Training Institute since the certificates have to be duly signed before the applicant can qualify for the loan.

    To relax the rules and qualify more small-scale sugarcane farmers, the SRA said it has made the trainer-signed certificates a requirement for loan release rather than a pre-approval requirement.