By MADELAINE B. MIRAFLOR
The Philippine government still wants the Food Terminal, Inc. (FTI) to serve its original purpose and be able to serve as a regional trading center for farmers years after undergoing massive privatization, which left the government only about 30 hectares of property within the entire FTI complex in Taguig.
In a statement, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said he plans to “revive and transform” the FTI into an integrated modern farmers’ trading center, wholesaling and processing farm and fishery products from Calabarzon, Mimaropa and Bicol regions.
This, he said, is for the benefit of millions of consumers in Metro Manila and urban centers in Luzon.
It was former Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol who said it first last year that the Department of Agriculture (DA) will utilize whatever that is left of FTI to create a major food terminal.
In 2012, listed real estate giant Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI) paid the government as much as ₱24 billion to purchase the FTI property.
Piñol said the FTI, which is now under the DA, still owns a 25 hectares lot within the complex. The government also owns another 11 hectares within the vicinity, but it is currently occupied by informal settlers.
The former DA Chief made this announcement as FTI announced its plan to spend about ₱1 billion to build food terminals in six locations, one of which will be located within the remaining portion of FTI complex that is still owned by the government.
When completed, the new FTI will have receiving and processing facilities for the produce of farmers and fishermen which will then be sold directly to consumers or vendors’ associations.
Meanwhile, Dar also asked the DA’s Agribusiness Marketing and Assistance Service (AMAS) to partner with FTI and look into refurbishing and modernizing the latter’s cold storage systems in partnership with the Cold Chain Association of the Philippines (CCAP).
A group of cold storage facilities operators, CCAP currently has 130 members that have a combined capacity of about 450,000 metric tons (MT) of various food products annually, According to CCAP President Anthony S. Dizon.
Together, CCAP members have a fleet of 10,000 refrigerated vehicles and containers transporting perishable goods across the country.
Dar is now urging the country’s “cold chain” industry players to partner with the DA, local government units and farmers’ groups to put up more cold storage facilities nationwide.
This is to maintain the freshness and quality of farm and fishery products, reduce postharvest losses, and earn more income among farmers and raisers.
On the government’s part, Dar instructed particularly the DA’s National Meat and Inspection Service (NMIS) to revive the unfinished slaughterhouse and cold storage projects in Iloilo and Batangas.
“With more cold storage facilities located near major farm production areas, trading centers, livestock slaughterhouses and poultry dressing facilities, fishing grounds and municipal fishports, we will be able to reduce postharvest losses by at most 35 percent that could be added up to the national food supply, thus bringing down prices for the benefit of millions of Filipinos,” Dar further said.
Dizon forecasts that the country’s cold chain industry would grow by nine percent annually, due mainly to increasing population and consumers buying more fresh and frozen produce from supermarkets and e-commerce platforms, veering away from public markets.