Korean investors eye corn plantation in Bukidnon

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/24 July) —  An eight-member exploratory investment panel from South Korea met with Bukidnon provincial officials this week, eyeing thousands of hectares of land for corn plantation as an initial venture, provincial agriculture officer Engr. Alson Quimba said.

Quimba told MindaNews Friday that the Koreans are exploring the possibility of  a leasehold agreement over at least 10,000 hectares of contiguous corn farms in the province.

He said the group was a mix of private and public sector representatives from South Korea’s Food, Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry ministries.

He said the group has expressed interest in investing in Bukidnon and is  conducting feasibility studies.

But Quimba said the exploratory mission expected Bukidnon to have vast tracts of government land for the project.

He said they apprised the visitors that most of the productive agricultural farms in the province are already titled  so they have to deal with private land owners.

Quimba said that sometime in the three-hour exploratory meeting at the Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO), options for smaller tracts of land were mentioned, like 3,000 hectares or 500 hectares only.

A common size for agricultural lands contracted in the province ranges from 100 to 400 hectares of contiguous area.

Bukidnon is among six provinces in the country considered as a “candidate province” for a pilot area for the establishment of the proposed Multi-Industry Clusters between the Philippines and South Korea, the Manila Bulletin reported in April.

The Korean government has approved a one-million dollar grant to the Philippines to study the feasibility of establishing clusters linking farming sites to potential industries.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) announced that a grant from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), which is roughly equivalent to P44 million, will fund a one-year study starting April this year to March 2011, to assess and select a pilot site in candidate provinces.

Aside from Bukidnon, the other provinces being considered are Isabela, Quirino, Aurora, Bohol, and Misamis Oriental.

In 2009, the report added, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a Feasibility Study on the Establishment of Multi-Industry Clusters (MICs), which was witnessed by former Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap.

Agriculture Undersecretary Berna Romulo Puyat was quoted in the report as saying the DA, KOICA and their partner agencies expect that the MIC model that will be developed in the Philippines will lead to increased farm production, along with the emergence of manufacturing sectors, increased employment, and a robust financial system in the countryside.

Quimba said it is a policy of the provincial government to welcome similar investors in the province but he said the Koreans might have to offer a good lease rate to compete with existing plantations.

He said they have to comply with labor, farming, agriculture, and land regulations in the province.

“We will also consider the implication of this to our food security,” Quimba said. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)