ARMM hopeful of more banana exports to Japan after Duterte visit

COTABATO CITY, November 3 — After the recent announcement of Secretary Manny Pinol of the Department of Agriculture about the potential for more exports of bananas to Japan coming from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), its Regional Board of Investments (RBOI) confirmed that the ARMM is gearing up for the challenge and is in fact already a major source of exports of Cavendish bananas to Japan, particularly from the Unifrutti Group Philippines.
As narrated in radio DZMM, Filipino farmers in conflict-wracked Central Mindanao, particularly the ARMM component province of Maguindanao, 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, his agriculture minister said Tuesday.
A 5,000-hectare Cavendish banana plantation, which can produce up to 20 million boxes annually, will be dedicated for export to Japan that is also expected to generate thousands of jobs, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said.  “First time that they really specified na bibili kami ng saging pero gusto namin na manggagaling sa conflict areas,” he told radio DZMM.
For its part, RBOI has been expecting that as investments in Cavendish banana plantations in the region came on-stream exports to Japan would substantially increase. 
 Last year, Unifrutti became the largest investor in the ARMM after registering with the RBOI their P3.7 Billion Cavendish banana plantation in Talayan, Guindulungan and Buldon municipalities, all in Maguindanao province.  Unifrutti plans to have fresh investments in 2,600 hectares of land in the said municipalities.  This is on top of their existing investments in a 1,500 hectare banana plantation in Datu Paglas and Buluan municipalities in the same province.
Aside from Unifrutti, other investors in Cavendish banana plantations are the Del Monte Fresh Fruits (Delinanas) fruit company with 500-1,000 hectare planted in Datu Abdullah Sangki, Maguindanao; the 550 hectare Al-Mujahidun Agro Resources and Development, Inc. (AMARDI) plantation in Ampatuan, Maguindanao; and lastly the 500 hectare Alip River Development Export Corp (ARDEXCOR) in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.
Lawyer Ishak Mastura, Chairman and Managing Head of the RBOI, said that the ARMM has ideal agro-climactic conditions for expansion of Cavendish banana plantation investments, particularly in Maguindanao since Mt. Apo and adjacent mountains provide a natural shield from the Pacific typhoons that have already reached Mindanao in its eastern coastal areas.
“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 America 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 and don’t own the land”, Mastura added. (Mindanao Post / RBOI)

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