Expansion of oil palm plantations pushed

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/25 August) — Palm oil industry stakeholders are pushing for the development of more oil palm plantations in parts of Mindanao in a bid to cope with the growing domestic demand.

Alfredo Montecillo, president of the Philippine Palmoil Development Council Inc., said Mindanao is presently the most viable option for the industry in terms of plantation expansion and production or processing.

He said the island has vast idle lands suited to the planting of oil palm as set by the Department of Agriculture.

Among the identified viable expansion areas are this city and the neighboring provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani, which have around 50,000 hectares of potential plantation sites.

“Expanding oil palm plantations here in Mindanao is crucial in building inclusive growth and for a stronger industry in the country,” Montecillo said.

He said they are promoting the expansion of the oil palm farms in Mindanao to help address the shortage of palm oil in the country.

At present, he said the Philippines remains a net importer of palm oil products.

He said the country’s total palm oil production only represents 30 percent of the domestic demand and it depends on imports from Malaysia and Indonesia to cover for the 70 percent shortage.

“We need about 100,000 metric tons of palm oil annually but only 30 percent of that or even lesser is supplied domestically,” he said.

In Sarangani, Montecillo said, they found significant areas that are potentially viable for oil palm farming, which could become lucrative livelihood alternatives for local farmers here.

“The potential is very big for Sarangani. We have conducted a lot of surveys already and there are many areas that can be developed,” he said.

Although the area’s topography is a major challenge, he said Sarangani has substantial areas that are suitable for the crop.

Milbie Daguro, Sarangani Investment Officer, said the province presently host around 150 hectares of oil palm plantations.

But a survey commissioned by provincial government showed that there are around 20,000 hectares of lands in the area that are suitable for oil palm farming.

Daguro said several companies have signified to establish a palm oil processing plant in the province once the oil palm plantations reach 5,000 to 10,000 hectares. (MindaNews)