A JAPANESE firm is looking at leasing up to 50,000 hectares in the Philippines to grow and process sunflowers into cooking oil and biofuel, the Trade department said.
“There are investors coming. They want to… pilot a biofuel project on 15,000 to 50,000 hectares,” Trade Undersecretary Merly M. Cruz told reporters late last week.
Sun Care Fuels Corp. has begun test operations on a three-hectare plot within a university in Mindanao, Ms. Cruz added, without elaborating.
“They are looking for a Philippine partner right now. [For the land], they’re looking at [leasing from] Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program beneficiaries in Northern Mindanao,” she said.
The firm has chosen to go into sunflower oil for biofuel as the crop, which emits nitrogen into the soil, is suitable for rotation planting and ensures that the soil remains fertile, she said.
In February, Trade Secretary Peter B. Favila said Middle Eastern and Chinese firms had expressed interest in developing land for agribusiness.
The Manila-based office of Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) had said Japanese investments would more likely come into the agriculture sector this year, as automotive and electronics firms have been hurt by the economic downturn.
The Board of Investments expects investment pledges to flatten this year to P288.35 billion while investments committed with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority are expected to hit P170 billion by yearend, up by almost a tenth from the 2008 figures. — J.A.D. Hermosa