• By The Financial District

DA ASSISTS IN REVITALIZING KEY ILOCOS TOMATO FACILITY

The Department of Agriculture is allotting P65 million to help a tomato processing facility get back on its feet with the aim of generating sustainable income for thousands of Ilocos farmers.

“We will extend needed financial assistance to the Northern Foods Corporation (NFC) to make it financially afloat and thus make it attractive for potential investors en route to its privatization,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar, during a visit to its processing facility in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte on September 26, 2020.


“We are seeking a P26-million loan under the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) to finance the operations of NFC as it awaits its privatization. The firm is also securing an additional P39M loan from the DA’s Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) so it can pay its arrears to farmers who had sold tomatoes during previous harvest seasons,” he assured NFC officials and staff.


“It is direly important that our farmers are promptly paid for their produce and hard work, so they can continuously sell their tomatoes to the NFC for processing,” he stressed.


The NFC was established in 1984 as a subsidiary of the Livelihood Corp. (LiveCor). In the year 2000, it was transferred to the Department of Agriculture. In 2013, the Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG) categorized NFC as a government-owned and controlled corporation under its food sector.


Established in 1984 as a subsidiary of the Livelihood Corp. (LiveCor), the NFC processes into paste fresh ripe ”Ilocos Red” variety tomatoes sourced from 3,000 farmers in Ilocos, Norte and Ilocos Sur. With a processing capacity of 500 metric tons (MT) of tomatoes per day, the NFC produces can generate about 4,000 MT of tomato paste from January to April yearly. In every processing season, the farmers then enter into a contract growing agreement with the NFC that likewise provides technical assistance and arranges financing with lending institutions for fertilizers, pesticides, harvest containers, and other inputs.


Boasting 800 hectares of production area, tomato is one of the high-value cash crops in the Ilocos Region. It is planted from October to December, after the main rice crop. NFC farmer-growers commence tomato harvest in January.


“We were informed that the company has an inventory of P120M worth of tomato paste, which they can use to pay out the loan to be extended by ACEF and ACPC,” Secretary Dar said.


NFC then supplies tomato paste to leading food chains, fish canners, and tomato sauce and catsup manufacturers in the Philippines, comprising 13 percent of the country’s 30,000-metric ton yearly consumption. Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that the Ilocos Region produced a total of 28.25 thousand MT of tomatoes last year, representing more than one-third or 38 percent of the country’s total production.


Among those interested to invest in NFC is a group led by former Candaba, Pampanga Mayor Jerry Pelayo, who joined the agri chief during the ocular visit. His group is scheduled to meet again with the NFC management to discuss the proposed rehabilitation and upgrading of the processing plant.


Pelayo said they will look into upgrading the facilities to process other commodities such as mango and pineapple, and to make the plant occupied and productive year-round rather than just four months a year.



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