MATANOG, Maguindanao (MindaNews/27 August) – A Japanese investor and the local government here have signed a multimillion dollar investment partnership for the production of export quality kimchi (peckles) made from Sakurab, a native onion herb.
Japanese investor Kazuo Sato trekked to this mountain town east of Maguindanao and signed a partnership deal with Mayor Mohammad Ali “Kits” Guro last Saturday.
The agreement, under the private-public partnership mechanism, will allow Sato’s Global Trade Company Limited, to develop, expand and market the local onions being produced in this upland town.
“We have plenty of local onions here we call Sakurab and be made into kimchi,” Guro said of the Korean traditional side dish made from salted and fermented vegetables, mostly napa cabbage and Korean radishes.
Sakurab (Scallion bulbs) is identified with the Maranaos in the two Lanao provinces and Iranun tribe in northern Maguindanao.
Global Trade Company Limited will develop kimchi out of native onions from Matanog and export these products to the international market, including Russia, North America, Eastern Europe, Africa and Arab countries.
Sato said the tropical weather, halal compliant practices of the locals and assured hundreds of hectares of production areas and sufficient supply of Sakurab convinced his firm to invest in Matanog.
The accessibility of the project site to the region’s seaport was also a plus factor. Matanog is less than an hour drive to the Polloc Port in Parang, Maguindanao.
Sato, Global Trade Company Limited senior consultant said his firm is also interested in developing Matanog’s abundant tropical fruit Marang into butter for export.
The other products that they are eyeing for a 5-billion dollar investment prospect include Japanese cabbage, chili, okra, carrot and giant radish, a major component of “wasabi.”
The signing of the partnership came while the Muslims in Matanog were celebrating Eid’l Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) during which Sato presented a “sakurab kimchi” with chili flavor for all to taste and enjoy.
During the Pagana (thanksgiving lunch), the kimchi was introduced to Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu who was impressed by the taste of the local product set to bring the name of the province to the international market.
Matanog was in the middle of the all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2000 since it is located within the perimeter of Camp Abubakar, then the biggest MILF base.
The MILF had already forged a peace deal with the national government that provides for wider autonomy for Muslims.
Matanog is also known for several rido or clan feuds in the past.
The so-called “widows of war,” a group of Matanog women whose rebel-husbands were killed during the all-out war are given priority for employment, Guro said.
“Sakurab is very independent and special product, we can promote the Philippine made sakurab into the international market,” Sato said, adding the appetizer will be distributed to supermarkets, hotels and restaurants, and for schools and military meals overseas.
Mangudadatu said the project would cover about 100 hectares of plantation in Matanog. He encourages locals to shun rido and other forms of violence to invite more investors like Sato.
“When the area is peaceful and no clan wars, investors will come in like Global Trade company,” Mangudadatu stressed. “This can be translated into employment opportunities for the local people and they will have money to send their children to schools.”
“I am so happy the Japanese firm found us and this partnership will mean more income for our people and many of them will be encouraged to plant sakurab,” Guro said.
Weeks from now, a processing plant that will handle the packaging of exports, including a nitrogen gas powered equipment for vacuum-packed Sakurab will soon be erected in the town center. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)