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Oil Palm in Bohol

Oil Palm’s promise to farmers simply did not escape the keen business sense of Senator Mar Roxas who only has a word for it. Terrific.

Born form a family who knows business when it smells one, the bachelor senator saw the oil palm prospects and wants Bohol experience replicated 10 times all over the country, for the country’s poor.

Senator Roxas was all ears when he was told the oil palm is still the best edible oil yielding of all palm varieties and of all oil producing plants.

And for a farmer who owns a piece of land inhospitable to rice, the presentation from Philippine Agricultural Land Development and Mills Incorporated (PALM Inc) for palm oil farm just did seem to amaze the country’s trade eagle.

Senator Roxas breezed through Bohol September 26, 2008 to visit the PALM Inc and talk to farmers at the sprawling oil palm mills in Matin-ao Carmen town of this province.

Planting its business through contract growing schemes to farmers who can not plant rice in the rolling terrains of central Bohol, PALM Inc. eyes covering idle lands by putting up oil palms, giving technical expertise and facilitating credit for farm collaterals.

PALM Inc presentor and company’s Malaysian mills chief operations officer Chee Kong Chang however clarified that contract-growing invitation does not include farmers engaged in rice production.

Since early 1997, the company has contracted some 2100 families and has succeeded in putting up the green cover for 6500 hectares of otherwise idle lands, Chang reported to the senator.

“That would be roughly three hectares of oil palm farm per family,” Roxas interjected.

For an average rice farmer earning at most P10T a hectare, the oil palm, which gives out 10 tons of fresh fruit bunch after five years would mean P35T per hectare, Bohol mills operations Officer Joven Uy adds.

Now wanting to maximize its oil palm production, PALM Inc. eyes covering 20,000 hectares of Bohol’s idle lands to hit mill operations at 3 tons per hour, Chang told the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce Chair.

The palm, which has a peak production at 9-15 years could hand in at least P90T a hectare a year, and could be productive for the next 25-30 years, he continued.

“That’s more that a rural bank manager could get,” Roxas remarked while doing quick math.

Seeing the promise himself, Roxas who aspires to push for the executive to consider palm oil production said he would be willing to make it his personal program and if by luck, a national government priority too.

On his part, he said he wants to make the government open up more credit facilities of farmers who opt for oil palm production.

He pointed out that the country could save so much on its dollar reserves when it imports between 150,000 to 200,000 tons of palm oil from Malaysia and other palm producing countries.

Convinced of the prospects, Roxas, who has been into a crusade of alleviating the conditions of the country’s poor said he wants the Bohol farmers experience replicated, adding that should be 20,000 families with stabilized income, and still owning their farm lots.- Chiu PIA

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