Banana farm shuts down

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    Al Sahar Agri Ventures, operator of a 1,500-hectare banana plantation in Maguindanao, has stopped operations since last week due to lack of funds.

    John Perrine, Al Sahar chairman and chief executive officer, said the company failed to get the lending support from agencies despite earlier assurances.

    Perrine in a statement said Al Sahar had invested more than P500 million and it had been harvesting export quality cavendish bananas in its initial 400-hectare banana plantation.

    The operations support 1,039 workers of which 600 are Muslim rebel-returnees.

    The company, which started operations in 2014, was assured financial support for a concessionary loan from a financing facility to be established with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) which saw merit in granting low-interest loan.

    The company said in anticipation of government financial support through the JICA fund, it broke ground on the farm in Talayan in November 2014 using its own funds to continue development activities including land preparation, importation of basic infrastructure like irrigation equipment and actual planting on the ground.

    However, Al-Sahar said funding was reduced from $125 million to $40 million due to realignments with the change in administration. Eventually, it added, none of the JICA-funded assistance to support private sector initiative in Bangsamoro Autonomous for Muslim Mindanao was released.

    The company was forced to seek help from the state-run banks but that plan did not push through.