Malaysia eyes more oil palm ventures in South Cotabato

GENERAL Santos City — The Malaysian government is pushing for stronger trade and investment linkages with South Cotabato province through fresh ventures in palm oil production.

Malaysian Ambassador Dato Seri Datu Hajj Dr. Ibrahim Saad said they will explore the possibility of bringing in more Malaysian companies to invest in palm oil ventures in the province, which was earlier found by experts as viable area for the crop.

“Mindanao, especially South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces are good planting areas for palm oil according to studies. We will seriously encourage our companies in the oil palm sector to look into possible expansion ventures in the area,” he said in a visit to the province last week.

Saad said several investors have already made inquiries and expressed interest to pour in their capital into the area utilizing the trade and investments mechanisms of the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

Through the BIMP-EAGA mechanism, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources have been making representation with Malaysian trade officials for the purpose of attracting agricultural investments into Mindanao.

Data from the South Cotabato Office of the Provincial Agriculturist showed that around 10,000 hectares of land in Lake Sebu town and 5,000 hectares in Koronadal City were found suitable and ready for palm oil production.

With Malaysia producing 45 percent of the world’s palm oil and considered as the second largest producer of palm oil after Indonesia, the provincial government believes that offering ready lands available for palm oil plantation investments will help enhance the industry’s prospects in the area.

Pat Busarang, provincial agriculture technologist, said the province could become the next Sabah, which is considered as the largest producer of crude palm oil and contributes more than 30 per cent of the total palm oil exports of Malaysia.

He said there are presently new oil palm plantation sites in the province’s lower valley area towns of Norala and Tantangan.
Busarang said most of the oil palm planted in these areas were already three-years-old and only halfway through its projected production stage of six years.

Overall, Liza Lacuit, South Cotabato high-value crops program coordinator, said the province has 1,229.38 hectares of oil palm plantations.

These plantations are scattered in Koronadal City and five other municipalities of the province, she said.
Lacuit said that out of the planted areas, 405 hectares were now on the production stage and at least 19,144 metric tons (MT) were so far harvested earlier this year, benefitting 419 farmers.

So far, she said 83 farmers in Norala town have produced 3,324 MT of palm oil out of their plantation area of 387.83 hectares.

In Tantangan town, 210 farmers engaged in an agro-industrial plantation venture were able to produce 990 MT of palm oil.(PNA)

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