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BARMM gets P950-million fresh investment for banana plantation

DAVAO CITY—A local business group poured  P950 million in fresh investments to establish in Maguindanao a plantation of exportable bananas, the Regional Bangsamoro Board of Investments of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (RBOI-BARMM), has announced.

The RBOI-BARMM office identified the investor as Al Muzafar Agriventure Inc., also known as AMAVI SWEET BANANA, which registered the proposed investment on Thursday last week. It said the investor is a wholly Filipino owned corporation with majority of its investors from the Bangsamoro.

“Despite the higher risks for investments due to the Covid-19 pandemic woes of the country and the region, as local BARMM investors, they would still proceeded with the project,” said lawyer Ishak Mastura, chairman of the RBOI-BARMM.

He said the investor is establishing its operation in the municipality of Datu Abdullah Sangki and other adjacent municipalities in Maguindanao with a combined area of 1,000 hectares.

The RBOI, in a news statement, said the investments worth P950 million “is supposed to generate an annual production of 2,000,000 to 3,300,000 boxes of Cavendish bananas for export to Japan, China and the Middle East. The expected employment for the investment project consists of 1,190 workers.”

The registration of the investment project of AMAVI with the RBOI-BARMM “entitles them to a six-year income tax holiday, reduced duties for importation of capital equipment, exemption from wharfage dues and additional deductions for labor expenses,” it added.

Mastura said the approval of the registration of AMAVI’s investment project “would help revive the banana industry, which has been on a declining trend due to several factors.”

“While the bulk of the banana industry is located in the Davao region, some of those areas have been hit by the Fusarium wilt or Panama disease that made them unsuitable for banana planting. Thus, the BARMM emerged as a prospective area for investments in planting of Cavendish bananas for export that could help revive our banana industry in terms of volume and market share in the world market,” Mastura added.

He said the Cavendish banana “is considered a fast-growing and high-value crop due to its export market, earning dollars for the country, and that it generates more employment per hectare than any other industrial crop.”

“It also does not require much processing nor a big land area compared to other plantation crops,” Mastura said.

The RBOI cited a Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) report released on March 12 about fresh bananas recording “the worst dip among the top 10 major commodity groups in terms of the value of exports at -46.9 percent as of January 2021.”  PSA data show that the value of banana exports in January fell by 47 percent to $84.659 million from $159.454 million last year.

The RBOI also cited a Department of Agriculture (DA) report that attributed the decline in banana production “to the spread of Fusarium wilt, widely known as the Panama disease, a soil-borne fungal disease that initially attacks the roots of banana plants.”

It said the disease turns the leaves of banana plants from green to yellow before eventually wilting. It is anticipated that areas infected with Panama disease may have already doubled to 30,000 hectares from the 15,000 hectares identified by the DA in 2015, RBOI said.

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