THE vision is simple—link up all major regional agriculture industries in hubs that will make up the backbone of an agri-industrial business corridor (ABC), sustaining and driving rural agricultural industrialization.
Secretary William Dar believes Central Luzon provinces play a crucial role in the corridor project that aims to connect major agricultural markets in the Cordilleras, Northern Luzon, Central Luzon and eventually Metro Manila.
“Pampanga and Tarlac, through New Clark City (NCC), has it all. There is an airport, an expressway that connects to Subic Freeport and major roads that connect to other areas in Luzon. Logistically, it is the perfect place to put up an agri-industrial hub,” Dar told SunStar Pampanga earlier this week.
Dar said NCC has what it takes to drive the corridor’s success through its strategic location. With Central Luzon at its doorstep, NCC has access to vast agricultural resources and provides easy access to Northern and Southern Luzon areas.
Through Pampanga, the NCC is easily accessible through the national highway and three expressways: Northern Luzon Expressway, Subic–Clark–Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), and Tarlac–Pangasinan–La Union Expressway.
The NCC’s connection to vital production areas is a perfect opportunity to jump-start rural agri-processing, eventually encouraging more agriculture industries and prop up rural industrialization, Dar said.
To start the program, ABC has a funding component of P300 million.
Integrating food and product supply chain
Central Luzon provinces play a vital role in the project in terms of the vast agricultural resources ripe for agri-industrial processing.
Dar highlighted the considerable role that Central Luzon’s various industries can contribute to the program.
Central Luzon’s total palay production was estimated at 663,358 metric tons, constituting 15.6 percent of the total palay production in the country in the first quarter of 2020.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that Central Luzon remained the top palay producer despite the 9.1 percent decrease in the volume of production compared to that of the first quarter of 2019.
Central Luzon is also home to strong poultry industry. As of January 1, 2019, Central Luzon had the highest broiler inventory in the country, accounting for 26.60 percent of the country’s entire supply according to the PSA.
Statistics showed Central Luzon was the top chicken-producing region in the country for the first semester of 2020.
The PSA said Central Luzon contributed 34.7 percent to the country’s total chicken production. In terms of duck production, Central Luzon remained the top producing region, contributing 32.8 percent to the country’s total production.
Despite being hit by swine flu, Central Luzon’s hog industry remains vibrant. Central Luzon ranked first in terms of the total volume of hog production, which contributed 19.4 percent to the country’s production.
Corn is also a strong product in Central Luzon. Pampanga’s corn industry contributes a chunk in the overall production in Central Luzon and the country.
Central Luzon’s total corn production was recorded at 141,503 metric tons for the first quarter of 2020. The 9.0 percent increase of Central Luzon’s volume of corn production was brought about by Pampanga’s 57 percent upsurge in corn production, according to the PSA.
Hub for agricultural industries
Dar said NCC will focus on agricultural processing. A 30-hectare site at New Clark City had been inspected recently by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) officials where facilities for the agribusiness hub will be constructed by the mid of 2021.
A seed technology park is also planned for the ABC. The DA said the ABC will complement the planned Clark Fresh Market to be constructed at the Clark Civil Aviation Complex.
The market complex will have an integrated post-harvest facility, catering niche markets for organic produce, halal-certified and premium quality food products.
Once realized, it will be the country’s first agri-industrial business corridor and the first stage of the national agricultural development plan under the new normal.
The ABC project is also planned for 12 new economic zones identified by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority.
BCDA President Vince Dizon said the project aims to “provide assistance to farmers and entrepreneurs, create more jobs and spread development in the countryside” as the project integrates the food supply chain, as well as introducing innovative agricultural technology to farmers.
“This hub will not only enhance the productivity of our farmers but will also boost economic activity in the region. Improved connectivity infrastructure and the other planned developments in New Clark City make it the best location for this project, and we plan to have this agro-industrial hub started by next year,” Dizon said.
The project has a research and development component as it aims to integrate small-scale farmers and provide access to production resources such as technology, capital and value-enhancing facilities.
Products from the hub, in case of domestic or international markets outside Luzon, can be shipped through the Clark International Airport and to the Subic Bay International Airport through the SCTEx.