Group invests P950M to revive BARMM banana industry

Published April 20, 2021, 6:00 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Al Muzafar Agriventure Inc., also known as AMAVI SWEET BANANA, is investing P950 million to revive some 1,000-hectare Cavendish banana plantation in the municipality of Datu Abdullah Sangki and other towns in the Province of Maguindanao. 

The regional Bangsamoro Board of Investments (RBOI) of the Bangsamoro   Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has approved the project’s registration last week, April 15. The project is entitled to 6-year income tax holiday, reduced duties for importation of capital equipment, exemption from wharfage dues and additional deductions for labor expenses.

The investment 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.

In a statement, RBOI said that AMAVI SWEET BANANA is a wholly-Filipino owned corporation with majority of its investors from the Bangsamoro.  Being local BARMM investors, the group was able to proceed with the project despite the higher risks for investments due to the Covid 19 pandemic woes of the country and the region.

RBOI-BARMM Chairman Ishak Mastura said that 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 is considered 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,” said Mastura. 

Mastura added that 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.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that fresh bananas recorded 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 also showed that the value of banana exports in January fell by 47 percent to $84.659 million from $159.454 million in 2020. The Department of Agriculture in a separate report 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. 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 Department of Agriculture in 2015.