By Madelaine B. Miraflor
A group of Russian businessmen is looking to set up a massive banana plantation in Mindanao, which has the potential to become the largest contiguous banana plantation in the world.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said that a group of Russian businessmen, led by Robert Gaspar, is now looking to secure 5,000 to 20,000 hectares of land within the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) main enclave of Camp Abubakar in the boundaries of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur for their plan to run a banana plantation in the region.
Next week, a meeting will be held in the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) central office to discuss the arrangements between the investors and the landowners, which Piñol didn’t specify.
To set up a banana plantation, Piñol said the Russian investors would have to initially spend around P8 billion over the next two to three years.
“Russia is looking at Philippines to supply some of its [food] requirements. Russia has been buying Philippine bananas through China. We’ve been indirectly exporting banana to Russia. And this group now wants it to be direct,” Piñol said.
The project is expected to employ about 10,000 workers, most of whom former rebel combatants and their children.
Right now, the world’s largest contiguous banana plantation is also in Mindanao, which is being operated by Tagum Development Corp. (TADECO) under a joint venture deal with Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
Located in Panabo City, Davao, TADECO covers an area of 6,639.85 contiguous hectares, huge portion of which is owned by BuCor.
According to a TADECO official, one hectare of land can fit 2,000 banana trees.
The Philippines is currently the second largest exporter of banana, next to Ecuador. Bulk of the country’s supply comes from Mindanao.