ARMM plantations to supply bananas to Japanese supermarket chain
Cotabato City (October 26, 2016) – The Regional Board of Investments of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (RBOI-ARMM) has confirmed that the region is gearing up for a new challenge and is in fact already a major source of Cavendish banana exports to Japan, particularly from Unifrutti Group Philippines.
As reported by radio station DZMM, Filipino farmers in conflict-affected Central Mindanao, particularly Maguindanao, which is under ARMM, will supply Cavendish bananas to a Japanese supermarket chain under an agreement that will be signed during President Rodrigo Duterte’s trip to Tokyo this week, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said on Tuesday.
A 5,000-hectare Cavendish banana plantation, which can produce up to 20 million boxes annually, will be dedicated for export to Japan, Secretary Piñol said. “First time that they specified na bibili kami ng saging pero gusto namin manggagaling sa conflict areas,” he told radio DZMM.
For its part, RBOI-ARMM has been expecting that as investments in new Cavendish banana plantations in the region go on-stream, exports to Japan would substantially increase.
Last year, Unifrutti became the largest investor in the ARMM after registering with RBOI its P3.7 billion Cavendish plantation project in the towns of Talayan, Guindulungan and Buldon, all in Maguindanao province.
The project covers 2,600 hectares of land in the three municipalities. This is on top of its existing investments in 1,500 hectares in the towns of Datu Paglas and Buluan in the same province.
Aside from Unifrutti, other investors in Cavendish banana plantations in the region are Del Monte Fresh Fruits with up to 1,000 hectares in Datu Abdullah Sangki, Maguindanao; the 550-hectare plantation of Al-Mujahidun Agro Resources and Development, Inc. in Ampatuan, Maguindanao; and the 500-hectare plantation of Alip River Development Export Corp. in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.
Lawyer Ishak Mastura, chairman and managing head of the RBOI-ARMM, said the region’s agro-climatic conditions are ideal for Cavendish banana plantations, particularly in Maguindanao since Mt. Apo and its adjacent mountains provide a natural shield from typhoons coming from the Pacific Ocean.
“Gone are the days of banana republics in South America that were viewed as being underdeveloped for being colonized and made dependent on banana investors coming from the United States and elsewhere,” he said.
The Cavendish banana export industry in the ARMM have a strong local investor component and the owners of the land have a decisive say in the banana companies, especially because the investor only leases the land from the local resident and don’t own the land, Chairman Mastura added.
Philippine banana exports are currently on a slump with $440 million in total value posted last year from $1.1 billion in 2014. Thus, the additional exports from ARMM would be a boost to the industry. Philippine bananas exported worldwide are of Cavendish variety with up to 40% of the volume going to Japan.
The Davao Region used to control up to 95% of the banana industry but in recent years, neighboring regions such as Central Mindanao, ARMM and Northern Mindanao have started to contribute to the total volume of fruits exported. Current Cavendish banana hectarage is placed at roughly 80,000. (Bureau of Public Information)