December 12, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

China to step up buying agri products from former Mindanao conflict areas

CHINA is purchasing more agricultural products worth as much as $200 million annually from farmers in former conflict areas in Mindanao.

The Chinese government has issued guidelines to private companies to connect with Philippine production companies so that additional products from conflict areas will be given priority in one of the world’s biggest market, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

Mr. Piñol met with Vice-Ministers of Agriculture Qu Dongyu and Yu Xinrong, who represented Chinese Agriculture Minister Hang Changfu, on Monday on the sidelines of the One Belt One Road Summit in Beijing.

Among the identified priority products are banana, pineapple and hash avocado, which Dole Philippines is now producing in limited quantity.

China became the third country after Japan and South Korea to pledge support to the peace efforts of President Rodrigo R. Duterte by buying more agriculture products from former conflict areas.

The total value of agriculture products that China will import could range from $150 million to $200 million every year, Mr. Piñol said in a separate mobile phone message.

President Duterte prefers that the Bangsamoro people run their own agriculture companies rather than lease their land to multinational companies, Mr. Piñol said.

To support this, Japan is providing loans under the five-year ¥4.93 billion Harnessing Agribusiness Opportunities through Robust and Vibrant Entrepreneurship Supportive of Peaceful Transformation (HARVEST) project -- a facility for agribusiness-related investors in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Mr. Piñol had met with officials from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) “to start organizing the stakeholders in their areas so government could come in with financing to support their efforts.”