Corporate News

By Janina C. Lim, Reporter

PMFTC looks to expand in Mindanao, says Agri chief

Posted on January 09, 2017

TOBACCO GIANT PMFTC, Inc. is eyeing to expand in Mindanao, seeing the area’s favorable climate conditions as viable for tobacco leaves cultivation, according to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol.

“They’re looking at Mindanao for expansion areas because of the favorable climate,” Mr. Piñol said in a phone interview over the weekend.

Unlike in Luzon, where the soil type makes tobacco farming only viable once every year, the Agriculture chief noted Mindanao’s soil conditions would allow tobacco farming all year round.

Mr. Piñol said PMFTC, an affiliate of Philip Morris International, concluded an ocular inspection over the weekend of a 5,000 hectare-property in North Cotabato, which was previously a banana plantation owned by Sumitomo Fruits Corp. Philippines.

Asked on initial feedback from PMFTC, Mr. Piñol said: “Mukhang okay naman daw (I heard it looks okay) but I have not received an official report from them.”

Sought for comment, National Tobacco Administration (NTA) Administrator Edgardo D. Zaragoza said that the agency welcomes such development but they have yet to receive details of PMFTC’s plan.

“They’re still eyeing (areas) and they keep looking for areas but they haven’t informed us yet. Sometimes they just inform us when they’re about to start,” Mr. Zaragosa said in a phone interview

Should the project push through, the 5,000-hectare expansion may cost around P300 million for development and may bring a monthly income of around P60,000 for each farmer, Mr. Piñol noted, citing the PMFTC team’s estimates.

According to data from the Philippine Tobacco Growers Association, the average income of a tobacco farmer may reach between P40,000 and P100,000 per hectare, making tobacco a profitable cash crop.

Aside from North Cotabato, tobacco-growing provinces in Mindanao also include Zamboanga del Sur, Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, and Maguindanao.

From July to September last year, data from the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that total tobacco output hit its all-time third quarter high at 1.11 million metric tons (MT), significantly higher than the 545,000 MT level during the comparable period in 2015.

The PSA attributed the boost in production to the fact that more farmers were engaging in contract growing, specifically of the Virginia tobacco variety by PMFTC and high prices of the native variety in northern Mindanao, particularly in Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon.

During the period, northern Mindanao accounted for the bulk of the national tobacco production at 97.8%.