P950-M BARMM banana investment eyed to help revive industry

By Noel Punzalan

Lawyer Ishak Mastura, RBOI-BARMM chairman. (File photo courtesy of RBOI-BARMM)

COTABATO CITY

The Regional Board of Investments of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (RBOI-BARMM) has approved the registration of Al Muzafar Agriventure Inc. (AMAVI) that would pour in PHP950 million worth of investments in the region’s banana industry.

The firm, also known as the Amavi Sweet Banana (ASB), plans to establish Cavendish banana plantations in a combined 1,000 hectares of arable lands in Datu Abdullah Sangki town and other municipalities in the province.

“The investment is expected to generate an annual production of two million to 3.3 million boxes of Cavendish bananas for export to Japan, China, and the Middle East,” RBOI-BARMM chairperson Ishak Mastura, said in a statement Monday.

“The investment project is also expected to generate 1,190 jobs for the locals,” Mastura added.

He said the AMAVI-ASB is a 100 percent Filipino-owned corporation with most of its investors from the BARMM.

“As local BARMM investors, they still proceeded with the project despite the high risk for investments due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic,” Mastura said.

He said the registration of the AMAVI-ASB the RBOI-BARMM on April 15 entitles them to a six-year income tax holiday, reduced duties for the importation of capital equipment, exemption from wharfage dues, and additional deductions for labor expenses.

Without elaborating, Mastura said the undertaking is seen to help revive the region’s 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,” Mastura said.

With this, he said that the BARMM is considered a prospective area for investments in planting Cavendish bananas for export that could help revive our banana industry in terms of volume and market share in the world market.

The Cavendish banana is considered a fast-growing and high-value crop due to its export market and generates more employment per hectare than any other industrial crop. It does not require much processing, nor a big land area compared to other plantation crops.

Mastura said a Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) report released on March 12 showed that fresh bananas recorded the worst dip among the top 10 major commodity groups in terms of the value of exports at negative 46.9 percent as of January 2021.

The PSA data also showed that the value of banana exports in January this year fell by 47 percent to US$84.6 million from US$159.4 million last year.

Mastura said that the Department of Agriculture, in a separate report, has attributed the decline in banana production to the spread of the Fusarium wilt, a soil-borne fungal disease that initially attacks the roots of banana plants.

The disease turns the leaves of banana plants from green to yellow before eventually wilting. PNA

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