FIRST LADY Liza Araneta-Marcos (in photo) and Department of Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr. attend the inauguration of the smoke-free products manufacturing facility of PMFTC, Inc. in Tanauan, Batangas on Monday. — PHILIPPINE STAR/JESSE BUSTOS

PMFTC, Inc. said that it will allot more than $120 million to purchase Philippine-grown tobacco leaf this year.

“More than $120 million… because the quality of the tobacco in the Philippines is getting better and better,” Philip Morris International Chief Executive Officer Jacek Olczak told reporters on Monday.

PMFTC is the Philippine affiliate of Philip Morris International, jointly owned with listed holding company LT Group, Inc.

He added that the company is also preparing to use Philippine tobacco for its smoke-free products.

“They require even better quality, consistency, etc. But I believe the tobacco growers in the Philippines, can deliver that quality,” he said.

He said that the heated tobacco products to be manufactured in a new facility in Batangas will use a mix of Philippine and imported tobacco leaf.

PMFTC inaugurated its P8.8-billion smoke-free products manufacturing plant in Batangas on Monday.

“We have plans of using the Philippine tobacco for the plant here, for this site, but also for export. Because we’re using this in other markets,” Mr. Olczak said.

“You will find Philippine tobacco in our products in every country in which we operate. So in more than 100 markets, you will find Philippine tobaccos in the product,” he said.

In his address, Agriculture Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel, Jr. said that PMFTC’s tobacco leaf purchases average about P1.8 billion per year.

The National Tobacco Administration said that tobacco production may rise to 42 million kilograms this year, amid higher market demand.

Meanwhile, Mr. Olczak said that with the plant’s growing capacity, PMFTC will look into purchasing more tobacco from domestic producers.

He added that the new facility is expected to begin operations within the year.

The facility has a maximum capacity of 3.5 billion smokefree tobacco sticks annually. The plant will manufacture heated tobacco sticks under the company’s Blends brand.

“We will be commissioning the equipment… in the next couple of months, we should be ready for production,” he added. — Adrian H. Halili