September 2, 2021

New investments of P200 million are being made to restore Maguindanao’s banana plantations

With the anticipated injection of PHP200 million in fresh investments from two local companies, the Bangsamoro Board of Investments – Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BBOI-BARMM) is assisting the resuscitation of banana plantations in Maguindanao.

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

Mastura said that the business seeks to meet the requirements of displaced ethnic Iranun banana farmers in Buldon, Maguindanao, who formerly contracted growers for the failed Al-Sahar Agriventures, Inc., as well as their desire to repair and rebuild the banana-growing infrastructure.

“The target banana farmers in Buldon, Maguindanao are those who were displaced after Al-Sahar Agriventures, Incorporated closed in 2019,” Mastura explained, adding that the company was unable to continue operations due to a lack of capital, marketing, and technical expertise, which was exacerbated by the pandemic.

According to him, the BBOI’s assistance resulted in a commercial agreement between the ESAC, which had previously registered its own Cavendish banana plantation investments with the BBOI, and the IPDC, which serves as the banana farmers’ newly formed intermediate company.

Mastura said that the ESAC, which also acts as the Iranun farmers’ marketing arm, will offer technical and farm management skills with the assistance of Davao-based multinational Unifrutti Philippines, Inc.

Mastura stated that at least 200 hectares of land in Buldon, Maguindanao, would be replanted with Cavendish bananas for export.

He stated that at a cost of PHP1,000,000 per hectare, it is expected to create a total investment of PHP200 million and 400 jobs in the region.

According to Mastura, the BBOI has also negotiated for the two organizations to have access to funding from the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s (JICA) HARVEST credit facility for BARMM and conflict-affected regions.

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

Mastura said, “The BBOI also aims to provide technical support to farmers by JICA experts under HARVEST.”

He said that the BBOI plans to register associated parties’ investments by the end of the year in order to offer fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for the investment project’s success.

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