By Elijah Felice Rosales, May 28 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Manila Bulletin

OVER 1,000 small businesses and at least 78,000 agricultural workers are expected to benefit from the P4.7-billion linkage program of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad).

At the International Food Exhibition (Ifex) Philippines over the weekend, the DTI and Ifad launched the Rural Agro-Industrial Partnership for Inclusive Development (RAPID Growth), a program that will link farmers to food manufacturers. It will provide training, supplies and financial aid to more than 1,000 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and about 78,000 farmers of coffee, cocoa, coconut and selected fruits and nuts.

The Ifad will shoulder the total cost of P4.7 billion of RAPID Growth, while the DTI will implement the program by upgrading agriculture-based MSMEs to create sustainable market demand for specific farm outputs.

In a statement, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said what makes RAPID Growth different is that it is sustainable, as all outputs will be based on existing market demand.

“This is the reason the RAPID [Growth] project has a good model since it will all be market-driven, and there will be specific support systems that will upgrade the operations of the MSMEs, as well as the productivity and yield of farmers. The program will assist both ends of the value chain: the farmers and the MSMEs,” Lopez said.

Projects under RAPID Growth will establish value chain development, increase production capacities of farmers, ensure innovative agriculture financing and strengthen market linkages. It will also create jobs in the process, as well as upgrade and modernize MSMEs.

“The RAPID Growth program is close to my heart because it empowers those at the bottom of the pyramid. Increasing rural income and decreasing poverty [are two] of the main goals of the Duterte administration,” Lopez added.

The pilot launch of RAPID Growth will be in four areas and will focus on four agricultural products: coco coir in Leyte, coffee in Bukidnon, cacao in Davao del Norte and calamansi in Agusan del Sur.

The areas were chosen in terms of number of MSMEs, production area and poverty incidence. The program will then be rolled out in 16 more provinces in six regions: Samar and all the five regions in Mindanao.

Ifad Country Director Alessandro Marini said RAPID Growth is the financial body’s largest investment by far in the Philippines. He said this is so because poverty incidence among farmers is at 34 percent, and sustained and inclusive agriculture growth is needed to truly reduce poverty.