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Unifrutti secures P1-B loan from DBP for banana area expansion

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UNIFRUTTI TROPICAL Philippines Inc., one of the country’s major banana growers and exporters, has signed a $19-million loan agreement with the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) for the expansion of production areas in different parts of Mindanao.

Unifrutti President and Chief Executive Officer Alberto F. Bacani said the fund, equivalent to about P1.045 billion, will be used for the development of 700 hectares of new Cavendish banana farms in the provinces of Davao del Sur and Bukidnon.

“We have identified areas in Davao del Sur and Bukidnon whose local governments and landowners have expressed full willingness to work with us,” said Mr. Bacani in a statement to BusinessWorld.

He added that these new areas have been tested to be suitable based on soil fertility, access to water for irrigation, proximity to national road networks, and proper land documentation.




Mr. Bacani said the loan package is so far the government-owned bank’s biggest farm development financing, and DBP officials have indicated continued funding support if the new farm areas “prove to be successful.”

Unifrutti currently has about 1,200 hectares of corporate farms and 5,000 hectares of contract growers. Its fresh produce are exported to the Middle East, Japan, China, and Korea.

Mr. Bacani, who is also chairman of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association, Inc. (PBGEA), said Unifrutti’s expansion program is intended to meet increasing export demand.

The industry recorded strong performance and growth last year, with fresh bananas ranking third among the Philippine’s top export products and the number one agricultural commodity.

In Dec. 2018, banana exports earned $159.31 million, six times the previous year’s value of $40.22 million, based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, in its preliminary market review report, estimated that Philippine banana exports grew by 77.34% in 2018, posting an all-time high volume of 2.95 million metric tons (MT), from a recorded volume of 1.663 million MT in 2017.

Mr. Bacani attributed this improved shipment performance to “significant investments in area expansion, new technologies and improved inputs.” — Marifi S. Jara