17 January 2005 KORONADAL CITY -- The city government here plans todevelop at least 300 hectares of idle lands into oil palm (Elaeisguineensis) plantations in the next two years.Emelita Miguel, city agriculturist, said they are now validating theirlist of 20 prospective farmers and the proposed plantation sites in 20 ofthe city's 27 barangays.
"This is the focus of our efforts right now and we are initially targetingto open at least 100 hectares of oil palm plantation for this year," shesaid.
Miguel said they launched the initiative following the identification ofthe city last year by the Department of Agriculture and the Department ofTrade and Industry as potential expansion area for oil palm, an exportcrop currently centered in Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and Agusan delSur.
She said Mayor Fernando Miguel issued late last year Executive Order (EO)number 07 establishing the oil palm industry in the city.
EO 07 tapped the Philippine Coconut Authority as partner for the projectas mandated by Presidential Decree 232, which authorized the agency to"help farmers as direct participants and beneficiaries in all the aspectsof the development and growth of the coconut and oil palm industry."
Miguel said a number of farmers have signified to plant oil palm duringthe series of conferences and investment forum in the city in the lastquarter of 2004.
"Many farmers are really interested due to the positive prospects in termsof income but we made it a policy to focus only on developing the idlelands so our food security initiatives will not be also affected," shesaid.
Miguel said the ongoing validation process includes the evaluation of thesuitability of the proposed sites for oil palm, which is ideal only forareas 700 meters above sea level.
After the validation, she said they will prepare a final list of thefarmers and the proposed plantation areas for possible funding assistancefrom the city government and other financing institutions. She said theyare eyeing financing windows from the Land Bank of the Philippines andprovision of production inputs from the Agusan Mill Phils, Inc. (Agumill),which earlier signified to help in the planned oil palm expansion in thearea.
Agumill, which maintains oil palm plantations in various parts ofMindanao, is one of only three existing palm oil processors in thecountry.
Palm oil, aside from being an ingredient in making margarine andshortenings, is also processed for use in the manufacture of soaps ordetergents.
The company has an ongoing outgrowership program for farmers, includingprovision of quality seedlings, technical support, hauling and purchase ofpalm fruits.
Agumill's outgrowership program in Sultan Kudarat province includes theestablishment of a nursery capable of developing some 500 hectares of oilpalm plantation in the province and the neighboring areas.