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P200-M fresh investments to revive Maguindanao banana farms

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BBOI-BARMM Chairman Ishak Mastura (Photo courtesy of Bangsamoro Information Office – BARMM) 

COTABATO CITY – The Bangsamoro Board of Investments – Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BBOI-BARMM) is facilitating the revival of banana farms in Maguindanao with the expected infusion of PHP200 million worth of new investments from two local firms.

BBOI-BARMM Chairman Ishak Mastura, a lawyer, said Friday that his office has eased a business understanding between the Eka Salam Agriventures Corp. (ESAC) and the Iranun Premier Development Corp. (IPDC) for the recovery of the seemingly troubled banana industry in the province amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Mastura said the venture aims to address the needs of displaced ethnic Iranun banana farmers in Buldon, Maguindanao, who were formerly contract growers under the unsuccessful Al-Sahar Agriventures, Inc., as well as their intention to rehabilitate and restore the banana farming infrastructure.

“The target banana farmers in Buldon, Maguindanao are the growers that were displaced after the closure of Al-Sahar Agriventures, Incorporated in 2019,” Mastura said, adding that the firm was unable to continue its operation for lack of capital, marketing, and technical expertise, which made worse by the pandemic.

He said the BBOI’s facilitation led to having a business understanding between the ESAC, which previously registered its own Cavendish banana plantation investments with the BBOI, and the IPDC that stands as the banana farmers’ newly-organized intermediary firm.

In addition, Mastura said the ESAC, which also serves as the Iranun farmers’ marketing arm, would provide technical and farm management expertise with the help of multinational Unifrutti Philippines, Inc. based in Davao City.

“At least 200 hectares of land in Buldon, Maguindanao is expected to be replanted with Cavendish bananas for export,” Mastura said.

He said at a cost of PHP1,000,000 per hectare, it is estimated to generate a total of PHP200-million investment, and the employment of some 400 people in the area.

Mastura said the BBOI has further arranged for the two groups to have access to financing from the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) loan program for BARMM and conflict-affected areas under its HARVEST lending facility.

HARVEST stands for Harnessing Agribusiness opportunities through Robust and Vibrant Entrepreneurship Supportive of peaceful Transformation, a five-year PHP2.12 billion development assistance from JICA that seeks to provide concessional loans to small and medium enterprises, cooperatives, and large agribusiness enterprises, among others, in the BARMM.

“The BBOI also seeks to facilitate technical assistance to the farmers by JICA consultants under HARVEST,” Mastura added.

He said the BBOI is set to register the investments of the related parties before the end of this year to provide fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for the investment project to succeed. (PNA