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Mindanao to get infrastructure help to ensure steady supply of food for NCR, Central Luzon and Region 4

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is allocating P2.5 billion between now and 2010 to build the infrastructure and logistics support needed to ensure the steady flow of cheap and fresh products from the production areas of Mindanao to the country’s main food markets in Metro Manila, and Regions 3 and 4.

Agriculture assistant secretary Salvador Salacup told reporters here last week that the government was looking anew at Mindanao’s production potential to help sustain the supply requirement of the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, which is considered the country’s rice granary, and the growth centers of Calabarzon and Mimaropa.

Salacup spoke to the media during the opening-day session of a US Department of Agriculture-organized international conference looking into the development of the cold-chain sector in the Philippines. The three-day conference was held at the Marco Polo Hotel here last week.

Mindanao’s latent typhoon-free advantage and huge untapped lands were the main considerations of renewing the government’s interest in reviving the food-basket tag of the region, earlier accorded by former President Joseph Estrada to this southern Philippine island of more than 20 million residents.

Salacup said that the government would be strengthening anew the “roll-on, roll-off” (Roro) nautical highway system, and back it with storage facilities and an efficient cold-chain system “to ensure the fast and efficient transport of fresh-farm products to the country’s demand center.”

The three regions consume 55 percent of the national food demand “and we need Mindanao to be a source of this huge requirement.”

He said the DA has allocated P1 billion this year to improve the infrastructure and cold-chain network, from ice-making and refrigerated trucks to precooling system and tramlines, and from the Roro system to the bagsakan centers. In 2010, the DA would allocate another P1.5 billion.

Vegetable and fruit growers in Mindanao have been holding trade shows and exhibits, to sell their products to the key cities in the island to ensure consumption of their perishable products. The search for local markets was prompted by government inaction to their several years of complaining about the high cost of cargo imposed by shipping lines, making importation of farm products from nearby Asian countries cheaper and practical than getting them from Mindanao.

“Here the Roro system comes into important play,” he said. The Roro has established three port facilities linking Mindanao to the Visayas; the eastern nautical highway via Surigao City in Surigao del Norte; the central nautical highway, via Cagayan de Oro City, and the Western Nautical Highway via the Ozamiz port in Misamis Occidental.

“We want storage facilities to be put up in these ports to store the farm products, and the cold-chain facilities to preserve the freshness and quality of the products while in transport,” he said. “The training programs are also part of this budget,” he told reporters here on Monday.”

Also speaking on Monday’s news briefing, Anthony Dizon, president of the Cold Chain Association of the Philippines (CCAP), said three major-storage facilities have been put up in Davao City to take care of the region’s bananas and other fruits; in General Santos City for the region’s tuna catch; and in Cagayan de Oro City for vegetables and fruits.

He said that each facility would involve as much as P200 million investment to set up, but he said “the private sector would be willing to put them in production areas.”

He said that the agreement with the government was that the latter would be in charge of identifying the production areas, including those in Mindanao, and for businessmen to evaluate the investment potentials of the area.

The number of facilities would depend on these identification and evaluations, he said. (Business Mirror)

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