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Banana firm to develop 1,000 hectares in Basilan

A banana company is finalizing its plan to expand in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), particularly the province of Basilan.

On Friday, Alberto F. Bacani, president and chief executive officer of Unifrutti Tropical Philippines Inc., said that his company is looking at developing about 1,000 hectares for banana production in the province.

“There is already a tripartite agreement between the local government, ourselves and the cooperatives there,” he said as they are just waiting for the Provincial Agrarian Reform Council to approve the agribusiness venture agreement.

Although the company is only looking at developing 1,000 hectares “initially,” Bacani said the province can become a “banana island in the future.”

To fund the project, there will be a loan with the Land Bank of the Philippines at about $30,000 a hectare, he said, with the growers taking out the loans while the company provides assistance to ensure productivity of the area.

He said the approach is the company and the cooperatives partner with the bank and that involvement of the company as both the one providing the assistance as well as ensuring that there is market for the product makes the “viability of the project very high so they (bank) approve the loan.”

He said the plan started when a member of a political clan who is also a local government official approached the company with a proposal to expand in the province.

The idea came about after the coconut plantations in the province were infested by pests that plantation owners decided to look for alternative crops.

He added that the company is also finalizing its partnership with another community leader and in the Ampatuan town in Maguindanao, although he has not provided the details of the partnership.

The company has experience in the region as it was the partner of the Paglas group when they decided to open banana production in the Paglas town in Maguindanao.

It also ventured into pineapple production in Wao, a town in Lanao del Sur, another province in the region.

The region, Bacani added, has remained as the only area in Mindanao that is good for farm expansion because of its huge arable land that is “flat and can be irrigated.”

The good thing about the BARMM is that “you need to find a good partners,” community leaders who have the clout and who are looked up to, said Bacani, explaining that in other areas where farms are smaller, the company needs to talk to each of the farm owners.

He added that he appreciated the new BARMM as it has “technocrats that are not political, but they are people who know how to run businesses and do corporate governance.”

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