REINA MERCEDES, Isabela, Philippines?President Benigno Aquino Friday inaugurated the P500-million Reina Mercedes Corn Processing Center in this old farming town, the biggest post-harvest facility not just in the Philippines but in all of Southeast Asia.
?The small corn farmers will directly benefit from this,? Mr. Aquino said at the commissioning rites for the facility, during which he ceremonially switched on the equipment that started the center?s operation.
The immediate benefit for the farmers will be in the form of higher incomes and better yields because of the infrastructure and the machines that will dry and process their corn, Mr. Aquino said.
The RMCC, built at a cost of P500 million, will help local farmers by directly purchasing their produce of fresh corn-on-the-cob, and processing them into high-quality corn grains for the food-milling and food-processing industries.
The facility can process up to 200,000 metric tons (MT) of corn-on-the-cob into dried high-quality grains, and store these in huge, state-of-the-art bulk silos with a total capacity of 60,000 MT.
It was built by Mindanao Grain Processing Co. (MGPC), a unit of the La Filipina Uycongco Corp. group of companies. The MGPC also operates two corn processing centers in Bukidnon province, but the Isabela facility has five times the capacity of the Bukidnon plants.
The inauguration of the RMCC was the highlight of the three-day 7th Philippine National Corn Congress, whose closing ceremonies Mr. Aquino keynoted yesterday.
The congress is the annual gathering of more than 3,000 corn farmers and industry leaders, agricultural technicians and other industry stakeholders.
The President thanked Dr. Alfonso Uy, the MGPC chair and other company officials for building the corn-processing center in Isabela.
?You already improve the quality of their corn harvest, they also manage to sell to you their produce for the right price,? he said.
The MGPC said it put up the center ?to improve agricultural efficiency, increase farming income, develop food security and promote social justice not only for the farmers of Isabela but also for the whole region.?
Isabela province is a major corn producer in the vast and fertile Cagayan Valley region.
Mr. Aquino said his administration plans to put up one corn dryer for every 1,000 hectares of cornfields, especially in Mindanao.
He said trading centers and seed storage facilities will also be set up to ensure the quality of the seeds for the farmers.
The President said his administration would use the P1.3 billion that used to be allocated for subsidizing the farmers? purchase of seeds to fund long-term programs to revitalize agriculture.
This will include the rehabilitation of the country?s irrigation systems, to be undertaken by the Department of Agriculture, the National Irrigation Administration, local government units, volunteer groups, cooperatives and private business.
?These public-private partnerships are the quickest means wherein we can build small-scale irrigation systems in the countryside and immediately address the lack of water,? he said.
Mr. Aquino said the government would also increase the production loan portfolio for those who engage in agricultural projects.
He said this will be done in cooperation with Land Bank of the Philippines and other government financial institutions.
?Rural banks and cooperatives that farmers usually go to for financial needs will participate in these projects,? Mr. Aquino said.
According to the MGPC literature, the Reina Mercedes facility will initially be able to accommodate 15,000 hectares of corn harvest per season. Its processing capacity will expand as supply increases within the area, it said.
Initially, it will process 100,000 MT of corn which will benefit 4,000 corn farmers in the area, the MGPC said.
The company said the center?s drying systems for corn grains have a drying capacity of 1,000 MT a day.
It said the center uses ?the most modern? post-harvest equipment, handling and storage facilities in world.