Unifrutti secures US$19M loan for Philippine banana expansion

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Unifrutti secures US$19M loan for Philippine banana expansion

Unifrutti Tropical Philippines, one of the country's biggest banana grower-exporters, has reportedly signed a US$19 million loan agreement for the expansion of production areas in Mindanao.

President and CEO Alberto F. Bacani said the funds from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) would be used to develop 700 hectares of new Cavendish banana farms in the provinces of Davao del Sur and Bukidnon.

“We have identified areas in Davao del Sur and Bukidnon whose local governments and landowners have expressed full willingness to work with us,” said Bacani told BusinessWorld.

He added that these new areas have been tested to be suitable based on soil fertility, access to water for irrigation, proximity to national road networks, and proper land documentation.

Bacani said the loan package is the government-owned bank’s biggest-ever farm development financing, and DBP officials have indicated continued funding support if the new farm areas are successful.

Unifrutti currently has about 1,200 hectares of corporate farms and 5,000 hectares of contract growers. Its fresh produce are exported to the Middle East, Japan, China, and Korea.

Bacani, who is also chairman of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association, Inc. (PBGEA), said Unifrutti’s expansion program is intended to meet increasing export demand. The industry recorded strong performance and growth last year, with fresh bananas ranking third among the Philippine’s top export products and the number-one agricultural commodity.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, in its preliminary market review report, estimated that Philippine banana exports grew by 77.34% in 2018, posting an all-time high volume of 2.95 million metric tons (MT), from a recorded volume of 1.663 million MT in 2017.

Bacani attributed this improved shipment performance to "significant investments in area expansion, new technologies and improved inputs".

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