Philippine Ag Secretary aims to convert former militants into banana farmers
Philippine Agricultural Secretary Emmanuel "Manny" Piñol aims to attract former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants to agriculture through a banana farming project supported by the Japanese Government, Mindanews.com reported.
Piñol, a former journalist and ardent supporter of outspoken president Rodrigo Duterte, has previously contributed to planting programs for rubber, coconuts, bananas and oil palms on the island of Mindanao.
According to Mindanews.com, he is now on the hunt for 6,000 hectares of land Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao for the new banana-growing project, specifically in the areas of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and Lanao del Sur.
The plan was reportedly well-received by MILF vice chair for political affairs, Ghadzali Jaafar.
The story reported Piñol said the project aimed to improve living conditions, empowering farmers in conflict-affected areas.
"I talked to Ghadzali Jaafar in the area. Right now, they are locating for us 6,000 hectares but the concept that we would like to happen there is that we help them organize into a corporation, or maybe partner them with management group who knows banana farming. We let them be the owners of their plantations," Piñol was quoted as saying.
Earlier he had announced the signing of a deal with Japanese company Farmind Corp to import 20 million boxes of Cavendish bananas annually from the Philippines.
"The Farmind Corp. project is really aimed at providing livelihood opportunities for rebel returnees and beneficiaries of the agrarian reform program," Piñol was quoted as saying.
In other news from the Philippines' Department of Agriculture, Piñol has been actively engaged with Iranian Ambassador to the Philippines Mohammad Tanhaei to improve trade relations and collaboration between Manila and Tehran.
Iran has requested Philippine apple market access, for which the department is currently finalizing its pest risk analysis based on fruit samples.
"I’m still waiting for the results, and if everything turns out okay, rest assured that (the document on) importation of apples is ready for signing," Piñol said.
The DA chief expressed his excitement for possible ventures because of the huge market for tropical fruits particularly banana and pineapples in Iran.
As such, he requested the Teheran government to reduce the tariff on bananas, which currently stands at 24%.
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