As part of our efforts to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on microfinance markets around the globe, e-MFP reached out to Cooperativa Tosepantomin in Mexico, a good and long-time friend of e-MFP, having been a winner of the European Microfinance Award in 2017. Via an email exchange, Álvaro Aguilar Ayón, Chairman of the Board of Directors, brought us up to speed on the situation on the ground.
Cooperativa Tosepantomin is a Mexican savings and credit cooperative set up in 1999 that serves indigenous people of the Náhuat and Totonaco ethnic groups living in rural mountainous and marginalised communities in the States of Puebla and Veracruz.
e-MFP: What is the current public health and economic situation in your country in relation to Covid-19?
Álvaro Aguilar Ayón (AA): On 9 June, 2020, the Mexican Ministry of Health reported that there were over 124,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 14,053 deaths since the first infections of this pandemic in our country.
With these data, Mexico is one of the 10 countries with the most casualties due to COVID-19 with a case fatality rate of over 11%, higher than the close to 6% global average.
Over the last couple of weeks, the growth of infections and deaths has been progressive, and every day the numbers of the previous day are exceeded. Although this situation prevails, the Mexican government has communicated that as of June 1st, the gradual opening of economic activities will begin.
Mexico is going through a difficult economic situation because in this crisis nearly one million jobs have been lost, the peso has devalued by more than 20% with respect to the US dollar and it is estimated that the gross domestic product (GDP) will have a negative growth of nearly 7% during 2020.
e-MFP: How have you supported your customers and your staff during this crisis?
AA: Tosepantomin has been in dialogue with its cooperative members to find out about their current economic situation and to determine whether they are in a position to repay their loans in the short term or, if not, to renew their loans so that they do not fall into arrears. Fortunately only 25 cooperative members had to renew their loans, which has already been done.
e-MFP: What kind of support (financial or otherwise) have you received from your investors, donors and other relevant partners?
AA: To date, Tosepantomin has not received any support.
e-MFP: What coordinated response has been adopted by policy makers, financial supervisors or networks to protect the financial inclusion sector in your country?
AA: The National Banking and Securities Commission, which supervises Cooperative Savings and Loans in Mexico, issued a statement authorising them to renew loans that cannot be covered by the cooperative members, provided they have not fallen into arrears by 31 March 2020. Based on this communication, Tosepantomin renewed the loans of 25 members at their request.
e-MFP: What do you consider to be the main priorities to support and protect your clients from the economic consequences of the Covid crisis?
AA: Tosepantomin considers that the main priorities to support its members from the economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis are the following:
- To renew, in a longer term, the members’ loans who have difficulties to repay in the next months.
- To have sufficient liquidity to grant the loans that our members will need in order to raise their pepper, coffee, honey and citrus crops.
- To have enough liquidity to respond to the funding needs of our members to reactivate their economic activities in trade, tourism and services.
- To have liquidity to provide financing to our members so that they can produce food and thus make progress towards achieving food security.
Tosepantomin is concerned that in the coming months the request for loans from members will increase substantially, while at the same time, due to COVID-19, deposit collection has decreased. In view of this situation, it is possible that Tosepantomin will need to look for external funding sources