The Caraga region in northeastern Mindanao in the Philippines offers myriad opportunities for cold chain operators, especially after the recent launch of the four-year Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development-Philippine Cold Chain Project (PCCP) funded by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Caraga does not have a single cold chain facility, making it an ideal site for investors, according to Anthony Dizon, president of the Cold Chain Association of the Philippines, Inc. (CCAP), one of PCCP’s cooperating partners.
Caraga comprises the five provinces of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Dinagat Islands; six cities, including the regional center Butuan City; 67 municipalities; and 1,311 barangays.
The PCCP is expected to develop the cold chain capability of the region by increasing its agricultural productivity, focusing on the producer level to improve farm production, inputs, technology and practices. The project will fund the purchase of agricultural equipment, seed money for microfinance institutions or cooperatives and rehabilitation, among others.
Winrock, the non-government organization tapped to implement PCCP, said “Building effective cold chains makes it easier to produce safer food, and safer food means an increase in income for farmers and improved nutrition for families.” It added that higher-quality, higher-value agricultural products will be able to compete in new markets as businesses and consumers demand products meeting international-quality standards.
Dizon told PortCalls some CCAP members recently visited Caraga in search of investment opportunities. The association is also eyeing to hold its annual conference somewhere in the region.
Caraga “is reengineering itself from… a logging-dependent region,” Dizon said, adding that the shift to a food production project was “logical” because of abundant land and marine resources.
The cold chain industry veteran has playfully devised a catchphrase for Caraga that is now apparently on the path to a different direction: “From a logging to a saging (banana) economy” and “From logs to hogs”.
Levity aside, Dizon noted the grave need to improve the region’s port and related facilities.
“There is processing infrastructure that has been neglected,” he said, pointing out that a prawn industry, which died years ago due to a virus, had been inspected and deemed revivable.
The Nasipit port in Agusan del Norte, he said, is one of those needing an upgrade and a better utilization strategy.
During a recent visit, Dizon noticed many empty containers waiting to be repositioned, which he said could be used to instead transport bananas currently being brought in by trucks, stacked in pallets and shipped “very crudely” to the Cebu port.
“The areas for improvement are great,” he said.
The cold chain executive noted a free trade zone investment in Nasipit would help and that the local government has already volunteered to designate an economic zone.
“How successful we will be will depend on how much cooperation we will get from other stakeholders,” Dizon concluded. –– Roumina M. Pablo
Map from www.nnc.gov.ph