By Mary Grace Padin
PHILIP Morris International Fortune Tobacco Corp. (PMFTC) Inc. said on Thursday it is targeting to reach 4,000 metric tons (MT) of tobacco production annually through its $50-million facility in Claveria, Misamis Oriental.
Ravi Lumunsad, operations manager of PMFTC’s Claveria fresh-leaf buying and curing facility, told reporters that the company is ramping up its tobacco production through the continuous supply of seedlings to farmers and the use of state-of-the-art facilities for large-scale tobacco curing.
“We hope to achieve about 4 million kilos [4,000 MT] annually, which is the maximum capacity of our facility,” Lumunsad said during the tour of tobacco farms and the facility.
The fresh-leaf buying and curing facility in Claveria, which started operating commercially in 2013, covers 7.6 hectares and includes tobacco nurseries and 112 curing barns, Lumunsad said.
He said to reach the company’s target of 4,000 MT, a total of 2,500 hectares of land planted to tobacco is needed.
To date, there is a total of 650 hectares of tobacco plantations in the area. Farmers produced 900 MT of tobacco in 2014.
“We have already produced almost 700 MT of tobacco since January this year,” Lumunsad said.
Currently, the PMFTC and the local government units (LGUs) are targeting to reach 1,000 MT of tobacco output within the year. Under Republic Act 7171, LGUs that have at least 1 million kilos (1,000 MT) shall be given cash allocation by the Department of Budget and Management equivalent to a 15-percent excise tax.
The PMFTC is also pushing for rotational-cropping practice in the area, which enables farmers to harvest tobacco twice a year, at most. Farmers are encouraged to rotate the production of tobacco and corn, which is the traditional crop planted by the farmers in the province.
Lumunsad said this is unique in the country and is not practiced in other tobacco-producing countries.
“We are doing this as a pioneer project. There is nowhere else like this in the world,” Lumunsad said.
Through the PMFTC’s initiative, about 700 farmers in Barangay Ane-I and Barangay Tambubuan are given free tobacco seedlings, which can be grown and harvested in about 7 to 8 weeks. The company then buys the fresh tobacco leaves from the farmers at P4.97 per kilogram, to be brought to its facility for curing.
The company also gives capital assistance to the farmers for crop inputs, such as fertilizers, pesticides and tools.
Lumunsad said this system decreases the cost of production for the farmers since the PMFTC provides the seedlings and performs the curing process for them. This, therefore, increases the farmers’ income.
Farmers have reported an average of 17 MT yield per hectare and an average P30,000 to P50,000 profit depending on their harvest area and agricultural practices.
To encourage farmers to rotate the planting of their crops, the PMFTC also has a corn-support program, which aims to give financial assistance to farmers who will plant corn.
A survey conducted by the National Tobacco Administration showed most farmers in Claveria are willing to shift to tobacco farming to avail themselves of the production assistance from the PMFTC.