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First Pacific’s new interest: PH agri sector

Malaya | 2 May 2013
Anthony Salim, Indonesia's fourth richest person, is head of his family's powerful Salim Group, which controls the publicly traded holding company First Pacific.

Written by MADELAINE CABRERA

Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd. is set to invest in Philippine agriculture this year, particularly in the production of cash crops.

Manuel V. Pangilinan, First Pacific managing director and chief executive, met with Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala two weeks ago and “expressed desire” to invest in the farm sector.

“It was a broad-ranging discussion and we have requested them to identify parcels of land which could be available for large scale commercial farming,” he said.

Without disclosing the possible investment amount, Pangilinan noted that once First Pacific enters the agribusiness sector in the Philippines, the group will focus on acquiring large tracts of land with the help of the Department of Agriculture.

“I still don’t know what is available. In Indonesia, for example, the plantation for their palm oil alone is around 240,000 hectares. That is the scale we are looking for, maybe not entirely 240,000 but a sizeable hectarage,” he said.

“It’s too expensive if we were to buy, we prefer to lease and develop the land,” added Pangilinan. “As you know, Indofood is a major plantation operator in Indonesia, especially on palm oil, sugar, rubber, coffee and cacao,” he said.

First Pacific’s Indonesian-focused unit, Indofood Agri Resources Ltd. (IndoAgri), is the third largest palm oil company in the world but nearly all of its production is consumed locally.

It seeks to grow further by exploring export markets.

Asked whether he would likely come up with a new company for the agriculture investment, Pangilinan said: “Yes.”

In a telephone interview, Alcala said that he is set to meet with Pangilinan’s group at the end of the month to present possible land areas for the production of the cash crops.

Earlier, Pangilinan has said First Pacific was engaged in talks with local hybrid rice seeds producer SL Agritech Corp. about a partnership in large-scale rice farming in which First Pacific would provide the land for farming while SL Agritech will provide the rice seeds.

SL Agritech, owned by businessman Henry Lim Bon Liong, is a subsidiary of the Sterling Paper group of companies.

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