Did you know that 1,500 hectares in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao where 59 persons, most of them media people, were massacred on November 23, 2019 is now being converted into a halal banana plantation?
The objective, says Ustadz Abdul Wahid Sumaoang, is to transform the place into a zone of peace and prosperity. Sumaoang, a muslim of Ilocano roots, is the president and CEO of the company that is undertaking the development.
The company is simply called AMARDI which stands for Al-Mujadin Agro Resources and Development, Inc., said to be a joint venture of Malaysian and Filipino investors. Sumaoang said, however, that the Malaysians who are philanthropists would rather remain anonymous at this time.
So far, four-months-old Gran Nain Cavendish banana have been planted, the first harvest of which is expected to be sometime in June or July. The strategy is to use organic fertilizers and bio-organic pesticides so that the produce could be marketed at a higher price to such countries as Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East.
Dr. Ronaldo Sumaoang from Tarlac, a relative of the Ustadz, is AMARDI’s consultant and supplier of organic fertilizers. Dr. Sumaoang is the manufacturer of Durabloom organic fertilizer granules as well as a bio-organic foliar formulation. AMARDI’s other consultant on other aspects of banana production is Ed Bulleser who is a recognized pillar of the country’s banana export industry.
AMARDI’s banana production scheme is a model that the big multinationals in the banana industry could copy for their corporate social responsibility.
The initial 1,500 hectares that are targeted for development are mostly rented from the farm owners who have farms as small as three hectares although there are also people with bigger landholdings.
The annual rent for every hectare, the rent is P8,000 plus a P5,000 goodwill at the start. The beauty about the scheme is that for every one hectare that the farmer rents out, one member of his family is employed as a worker receiving wages not lower than what is mandated by law. If one farmer rents out three hectares, three members of his family could be employed as workers.
The farm workers will be doing such chores as weeding, fertilization, pruning old leaves, irrigating, harvesting and many other farm activities.
On a seven-hectare area, the company will put up a halal food processing center so that the bananas that are not suitable for export could be processed into banana chips, ketchup and the like.
The company will also put up schools for the farmers’ children from kindergarten up to higher levels. There will be a hospital to take care of the medical requirements of the people in the community.
Cavendish banana production can be a profitable agribusiness as long as it is undertaken properly so that diseases will not disrupt the productivity of the banana plants.
Based on the current stand of the plants in the initial 40 hectares that will soon bear fruit, one hectare could produce 6,000 boxes, each weighing 13 kilos. Each box is sold ex-farm at $6 to $7 per box, according to Ustadz Sumaoang.
Meanwhile, Dr. Rene Sumaoang and his partners in Butuan City are producing granulated organic fertilizer, Durabloom, which is highly suitable for enriching the soil in the banana plantation. The fertilizer consists of 80 percent chicken manure and 20 percent carbonized rice hull to which beneficial microorganisms are added.
Also being used for the banana seedlings as well as the plants in the field is a foliar fertilizer derived from fish scraps which is rich in amino acids and enzymes. The enzymes are responsible for breaking down the nutrients in the soil for easy absorption by the plants.
As of now, AMARDI is employing about 300 workers not only in the plantation but also in the construction of facilities. When the company is fully operational, complete with halal food processing center, schools and a hospital, no less than 1,500 people could be in the payroll of the company, according to Ustadz Abdul Wahid Sumaoang.
When that time comes, Ampatuan town will truly become a zone of peace and prosperity.