AgriNurture ventures into large-scale corn farming
Businessman Antonio Tiu’s AgriNurture Inc. is entering large-scale corn farming while engaging in talks with strategic partners seeking a minority stake as it revs up investments in the critical agriculture sector.
The company, one of the country’s largest wholesalers of fresh vegetables, is opening this year a 20,000-hectare corn plantation in Bansalan, Davao del Sur in Mindanao capable of producing 200,000 metric tons of corn per year, Tiu, who is AgriNurture’s president and CEO, told reporters in an interview on Wednesday.
The P2.6-billion project will create 50,000 jobs and will be partially funded via a P2-billion loan from Development Bank of the Philippines and equity from Agrinurture.
Tiu said this was a prelude to further aggressive moves in the sector, which he described as his “first love”.
“Now that I’m putting 100 percent of my attention here it’s high time for it to take off after the headwinds,” said Tiu, who recently resigned as CEO and director of Ever-Gotesco Resources and Holdings Inc. and Makati City subway developer Philippine Infradev Holdings Inc. to focus on his agriculture business.
The project in Bansalan follows an agreement struck during the pandemic with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and local tribes.
Eventually, the company will expand the business to other areas to grow annual production to about one million metric tons of corn in the next three years.
Tiu said their hybrid white and yellow corn will be blended with rice and will be sold at lower price points. He said corn was also healthier and required about one third of the water used in rice fields.
“The corn industry is vital. It’s not only a staple because corn is an ingredient for feeds, which affects the poultry, hog and fishery [sectors],” Tiu said.
The business would allow Agrinuture to double its 2021 revenue of P4.56 billion, he said.
“This is the start of a new growth cycle,” he told reporters.
Tiu also said the company was in talks with potential strategic investors, whose entry would help them become one of the country’s leading agribusiness firms.
Tiu said he was open to selling a minority stake of around 20 percent but there was no guarantee discussions would result in a final deal.
“Companies have approached us [both] local and international. Basically, we are open to partnerships,” he said.
Tiu said he was optimistic for the year even with risks arising from renewed tensions with China in the West Philippine Sea.
He said China accounts for about 60 percent of exports but they were actively diversifying to markets in the Middle East, Japan and Korea.
“We don’t want to put all eggs in one basket,” he said.
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