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Banana firms mull corporate rice farming

The country’s biggest banana companies are considering venturing into rice farming as the government continues to look for ways to boost supply of the country’s main staple.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) is  keen on planting rice in their leased lands to supply the needs of its employees.

“We suggested that areas which have been abandoned because of the panama disease or fusarium, which affects bananas, should be planted with either rice or sorghum,” Piñol said.

“Both rice and sorghum are among the crops identified as fusarium neutralizer. The group immediately jumped on the idea saying rice farms could be the corporate social responsibility project of banana companies,” he added.

A Presidential decree during the Marcos administration  previously required firms to establish corporate rice farms.The DA will form a technical working group to pursue the banana industry’s corporate rice farm project.

The move is in line with the DA's “Southern Swing”initiative, which involves the opening and development of potential agricultural areas into rice farms.

DA’s Southern Swing program aims to develop at least 300,000 hectares of new rice farms in the southern provinces of the country to compensate for the annual projected agricultural damage by typhoons in Northern Luzon.

Areas identified in the Southern Swing initiative are Samar, Western Visayas, Mindoro and Palawan, Central Mindanao, Lanao del Sur, Bukidnon and Zamboanga Peninsula.

The program is expected to be completed by 2020.