DAVAO CITY — Banana chip maker Southern Harvest, Inc. (SHI) started operating its factory at the Anflo Industrial Estate in Panabo City last week, and is looking to employ an additional 130 employees as it slowly increases output.

The company, owned by the Davao-based Abella family, exports to Australia, Russia and China.

Ricardo F. Lagdameo, first vice-president of Damosa Land, Inc. which owns and manages the economic zone, said SHI is recruiting more workers for its production line, from peeling to packing.

SHI launched its operations with daily production of 10 tons and is targeting 75 tons once at full capacity.

Mr. Lagdameo said the opening of SHI boosts growers of the cardava variety, which is being promoted to small farmers as an alternative to the cavendish variety, which is exported fresh.

“Southern Harvest uses cardava bananas. We also have another locator, First Panabo Tropical Foods, which also uses cardava. This will entice more farmers to grow cardava since there are end-users who will process it then export it. Cardava is a good alternative to cavendish, especially for small growers,” he said in an online interview.

Aside from chips, cardava is also exported frozen. The Philippine Exporters Confederation in Davao Region said the variety’s biggest markets are China, Vietnam, the US and Germany.

The Anflo Industrial Estate, which is linked to the Davao International Container Terminal, currently has 15 locators, including Del Monte Fresh Produce Philippines, Phildutch Polymer, Inc., Davao Packaging Corp., Davao Zhenzhi Plastics Corp., CAMECO Realty Development, PMR Pallet Ltd. Co., Fermon Corp., Lane Holdings, Inc., and Packwell, Inc.

Mr. Lagdameo said another three locators — Connovate Philippines, PMR Pallet Ltd. Co., and FoamPack, Inc. — are expected to start operations within the quarter.

“(A)nd by December, our first Japanese locator will be finishing their facility,” he said.

The 64-hectare industrial estate is registered with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority. — Maya M. Padillo