5 November 2020 via Recorded Message

Ladies and gentlemen, magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.

First, we would like to thank the Rural Banks Association of the Philippines (RBAP) as you have offered to help Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) that need financial support for the 13th month pay of their employees.

Second, thank you also for giving us the opportunity to speak about the Rural Agro-enterprise Partnership for Inclusive Development and Growth—or RAPID Growth Project—of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Through this project, rural banks have the opportunity not only to help our farmers but also agri-based MSMEs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In partnership with International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), DTI’s RAPID Growth Project aims to trigger agro-enterprise development in the rural areas. The project’s goal is to increase the income level of small farmers by improving their productivity through agri-technology and modernization, and maximizing as well the income opportunities for rural women and men across selected agri-based value chain.

This project will also build commercial partnerships that will sustain the growth of agri-based MSMEs with strong backward linkages to farmers. With enabling condition put in place for businesses to grow, this project will push for inclusive and sustainable rural economic development even as it brings DTI’s services to the grassroots level.

Regions 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, CARAGA, and BARMM covering 21 provinces were selected for this project based on the growth potential of selected priority agricultural value chains in the area, poverty incidence level, and cluster operational efficiency considerations. The project focuses on four priority sectors—Coffee, Cacao, Coconut, and Processed Fruits and Nuts—which have strong domestic and international market potentials.

This project provides interventions for farmers’ cooperatives and organizations by providing institutional strengthening and assistance. In particular, farmers’ cooperatives can serve as conduits for assistance as they can avail of a grant of 60% for the procurement of seedlings, farm production equipment and post-harvest facilities.

Ang proyektong ito rin ay nagbibigay ng interventions para po sa mga agri-based MSME na nagsisilbing anchor firms sa paghahandog ng marketing at technical support para sa mga magsasaka. Ang mga MSME na ito ay maaaring mag-avail ng business development services na may kasamang grant mula 20% hanggang 40% para sa procurement ng processing equipment and logistic support facilities.

With this in mind, rural banks can play an important role in contributing to the success of the RAPID Growth Project. Given that this project operates in less developed areas that have limited presence of Government Financial Institutions (GFIs) and big commercial banks, the network of rural banks across the country can serve the financing needs of the project.

Rural banks can be a key partner in the agricultural value-chain financing aspect of the RAPID Growth Project. Likewise, the expertise of rural bankers on various agricultural financing schemes is very important to help the project develop various financing modalities.

To elaborate, one of the key strategies in strengthening farmer cooperatives is to enhance their financial management capability. Over the years, rural banks have established a high level of expertise and capability on financial management. As such, we can tap rural bankers as service providers to work with the project in the delivery of business development services.

To sum up, rural banks that partner with DTI’s RAPID Growth Project can provide capacity-building for farmers and MSMEs on agri-finance value chain, credit assessment, and risk management. Through these interventions, we can help our farmers increase their income level while also supporting the businesses of their MSME partners.

That’s why as our country recovers from the pandemic, I call on members of RBAP to join us in supporting the agri-enterprises of our people in the countryside. DTI and RBAP can even formalize this partnership through a Memorandum of Cooperation. Through our combined efforts, we can enable our people to go past the “New Normal” and create a “Better Normal” that would give them a better quality of life as envisioned by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

Maraming salamat po at mabuhay tayong lahat.♦

Date of Release: 23 November 2020