Chiquita-Unifrutti has signed a partnership agreement with two banana producers in the Philippines marking the first phase of its expansion project in the war-torn Maguindanao province in Mindanao.
The US$60m deal with Al-Sahar and Al-Khalifa will lead to 2,000ha of banana farms being set up in the region, part of a 4,000ha scheme that will cost a total of US$120m.
Unifrutti’s president, John Paul Perrine, said the deal “is just a start” and the company had faith in Maguindanao as an investment area, until recently a stronghold of terrorist organisation the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Milf) which has fought over the territory with the Filipino government for four decades.
A peace treaty was signed in March in which the Philippine government agreed to make Bangsamoro an autonomous region for the Muslim population of Mindanao in exchange for a commitment from Milf to decommission its weapons. But Chiquita-Unifrutti had previously stated that it would not wait for the peace process to be completed before doing business in the new territoriy.
Perrine told Business Week that the company found it “easy to invest in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao because it has an enlightened leadership”.
The company, which supplies bananas and pineapples for Chiquita Brands International in Asia, already operates a similar venture in Datu Paglas where it has partnered with a local company to develop around 1,000ha into a banana farm.