Dole Philippines eyeing plantations in Negros

DOLE Philippines Inc. is eyeing vast lands in Negros Occidental as potential pineapple and banana plantations.

Former governor Rafael Coscolluela, Capitol consultant on investment and promotions, trade and export development, and inter-agency coordination, said yesterday that Dole Philippines is looking for potential areas for its plantations in the province because Mindanao, whose weather used to be ideal for its plantations, has now become the pathway of typhoons.

Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. as also confirmed Thursday that the company already has a pilot banana plantation in Himamaylan City.

Coscolluela said that aside from Himamaylan, Dole is eyeing another plantation in Murcia just outside the area where the Negros First Ranch is located.

He noted, however, that the problem of Dole is finding vast lands of 200 to 300 hectares for its banana and pineapple plantations because most of the lands in the province are already covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Moreover, Marañon said some sugar planters are now starting to diversify to other crops because of the challenges that will be faced by the sugar industry next year when tariffs on imported sugar would go down to as low as five percent to zero.

In fact, Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, has already set up an initial 30-hectare pineapple plantation, the governor said.

"Diversification is one solution. If sugar is not profitable anymore the farmers could shift to other crops. But I believe that the sugar farmer can survive if they are more efficient,” the governor said.

The Provincial Government, he said, has been trying to start other industries like animal dispersal program especially for cattle and sheep but this was hampered by politics.

He cited the case on the alleged overpricing in the purchase of sheep from Australia filed by a lawyer against him and provincial veterinarian Renante Decena before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Marañon said the case was based only on the farm gate price of sheep canvassed by his critics through the internet.

The amount they claim is enough only for the shipment of the sheep from Australia to the country, he added.

The governor said that all towns and cities in the province have already availed of the cattle and sheep dispersal program.
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