P2.25-B grains post harvest facilities eyed in Isabela

THREE government departments and the provincial government of Isabela signed an agreement to attract Filipino and foreign firms to invest in post-harvest facilities initially estimated at P2.25 billion that would serve 30,000 hectares planted to rice and corn in the province.

The agreement was forged February 16, in Cauayan City between the  Departments of Agriculture (DA), Agrarian Reform (DAR), and Environment and Natural Resources (DENR),during the government’s National Convergence Initiative (NCI), with Executive Secretary Paquito S. Ochoa Jr. as main guest and speaker.

The cost of post harvest facilities (PHF)–ranging from mechanical dryers to grain storage and silo–is estimated at P75,000 per hectare, for a total of 2.25 billion.

Agriculture Secretray Proceso Alcala said such investments–with the combined efforts of the DA, DAR & DENR, LGU of Isabela and the private sector–will further solidify the position of Isabela as the country’s major grains bowl, and thus play a key role in government’s goal to attain food security, particularly rice self-sufficiency by 2013.

As agreed upon, the DA, DAR, DENR, and the provincial government of Isabela will facilitate the flow of investments by offering tax holidays, duty-free importation of post-harvest equipment, and easing up on local regulations and taxes.

For his part, Isabela Governor Faustino G. Dy III said under the post harvest program they intend to acquire 100 4-wheel tractors to develop 500 hectares  of farmlands a day. The province also plans to buy dozens of portable mechanical dryers to serve the needs of farmers.

During the program, Secretary Alcala also handed over several credit and livelihood projects to farmer-beneficiaries.

These included awarded production loans amounting to P11.3 million to two farmers’ cooperatives; two four-wheel drive tractors worth P7.6 million to farmers’ organizations in Cauayan City and the Isabela State University in Echague; certificate of entitlement for 331,000 coffee seedlings and planting materials to farmer-beneficiaries in the municipalities of Echague, San Guillermo, San Mariano, Cordon, and Angadanan, amounting to some P5 million; and 700,000 tilapia fingerlings for 14 Isabela municipalities amounting to P230,000.

The turn-over  ceremony was also attended by Secretary  Ochoa, DAR Secretary Virgilio R. Delos Reyes, DENR Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio, DA U/Sec Bernadette Romulo Puyat, Governor Dy, and other Isabela officials.

The proposed P2.25-B post harvest projects in Isabela, Alcala said form part of the President Aquino’s major initiative much needed infrastructure investments via public-private partnerships.

These will complement existing drying facilities already established in Region 2, particularly the P500-million corn processing and storage colmplex in Reina Mercedes, Isabela, which President Aquino himself inaugurated in October last year. It is considered the biggest corn processing plant in th country and in South East Asia , which is capable of processing 200,000 metric tons of corn and storing 60,000 metric tons of grains.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Undersecretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat read a verbal note from the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) for the implementation of the East Asia Climate Change Project amounting to P473 million. She said the project will be revalidated and finalized in April this year.

The launch of the convergence agro-enterprise cluster in Isabela is part of the national convergence initiative (NCI) sustainable rural development program jointly implemented by the DA, DAR, and DENR in partnership with concerned provincial and local governments.

Nine NCI convergence sites are being eyed in the following regions and provinces: Cagayan Valley , Central Luzon, Calabazon, Panay Island , Negros, Bohol, Zamboanga Peninsula , Davao , and CARAGA.

During the event, an agreement was also forged  to pursue a P12.9-billion 100-megawatt hydro-electric facility in the province. The proponent, SN Aboitiz, was  represented by its Chief Executive Officer Emmanuel Rubio, who signed the agreement, along with officials of the Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce, PhilMaize, and Mindanao Grains.

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