Written by Manuel T. Cayon / Reporter
DAVAO CITY—A US Department of Agriculture-led investment scanning of potential business matches in the Philippines has already identified $330 million worth of prospects in agriculture in the Luzon leg alone, as the team also concluded its Mindanao leg yesterday, with large tracts of land offered for possible biofuel and aquaculture venture.
Mariz Agbon, president of the Philippine Agricultural Development and Commercial Corp. (PADCC), the designated trade and investment arm of the Philippine Department of Agriculture, said the potential business ventures were in biofuel, aquaculture, seafood and feedmill.
The same interests were being sought in Mindanao, but the island has offered additional incentives to US businesses: its large tracts of land “that have already been cleared of issues by the convergent work of the DA, the Department of Agrarian Reform, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.”
“Mindanao’s strength is in its vast tracts of lands and plantations of crops like banana and pineapple, and even the government is bent on increasing more agricultural production on this island,” he said.
US businesses have not yet closed any deal, but they have met Filipino business groups in matching sessions in Manila and in Davao yesterday.
One US business group has already indicated interest in doing a “dedicated visit” to the mariculture parks in the country, including that in the Davao Gulf off north of Samal Island, Agbon said.
“We would be seeing deals being closed in the next six months as the businesses brought here by the USDA study the potential of investing in the country,” he told a business media forum yesterday at the Marco Polo Hotel here.
Agbon said the DA would pattern the US trade and investment mission of the USDA-led businesses to the one it conducted with Saudi Arabian business groups in the middle of the year.
“After that mission, the Saudi group has formed the Far East Agricultural Co. solely to devote finding the appropriate business ventures in General Santos City, South Cotabato and Davao. They are interested in corn and banana production and in feedmill processing,” he said.
So far, the US business mission “is very positive at what they saw,” he said. “Some have requested for site visits, including a dedicated visit to a mariculture park.”
“We would look at this venture positively because the Philippines has not been in the radar of US investments,” he said.
Agbon said the US trade and agribusiness investment mission to the Philippines was the USDA’s response to the invitation of Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap when the latter joined President Arroyo in her US visit early this year.
“Yap extended the invitation to the USDA Secretary [Tom Vilsack], who gathered these US business groups for the mission,” he said.
He said 30 Davao City and Mindanao business groups met 17 US businessmen representing 12 companies. These US companies are the American Trading Services Llc., a California-based export company; Eco Vative Resources, exporter of organic products; Hima Corp., consultant, broker and distributor of food and beverage; Garuda International, developer involved in marketing and sales of natural food ingredients; Intervision Foods, exporter of frozen poultry and meat products;Novick Industries Ltd., with interest in food processing, grain trading, shipping and hospitality industries; Rapat Corp., in the business of moving bulk products; Valmont Industries Inc., industry leader in highly engineered poles, towers and structures in energy and other infrastructures; Verdant Ocean Inc., exporter of aquaculture feed and equipment; the Alan Group, a biofuel producer; Agri-Ima GIS Technology, a North Dakota-based provider of farm technology; and the US Fed Group, which develops and supports US private and public ventures.