TACURONG CITY, Sultan Kudarat—When the pandemic caused severe mobility restrictions nationwide, Erwin Y. Garcia sought to turn the crisis into an opportunity for the palm oil industry in the province of Sultan Kudarat.
Garcia conducted research on the industry and saw potential in the 14,000 hectares of palm oil fully-planted within the province. He envisioned the benefits of an Integrated Palm Oil Processing Facility that will refine crude palm oil and produce a variety of products such as cooking oil, confectionaries, cream, margarine, and shortening.
The available crops and the potential market soon convinced Garcia to expand his family’s business and establish the Garcia Refinery Corp. (GARECO) under the A.C. Garcia Group of Companies in 2021.
With the goal of being the first modern homegrown refinery in Mindanao, GARECO availed of a P450 million loan from the Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) to make this a reality.
The LANDBANK loan has bankrolled the construction of GARECO’s main facility, which will become the first palm oil refinery plant in the South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and General Santos (SOCCSKSARGEN) region.
The refinery mill is expected to make oil palm products more accessible and affordable for the local market, and serve as a stable source of income for oil palm growers from Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao.
More than being a private enterprise, GARECO aims to improve the socioeconomic status of oil palm growers in the area. GARECO and its parent company have thus partnered with 63 farmers to manage their combined 3,065 hectares of oil palm.
“Our vision is to engage communities in palm oil production that will take them out of poverty and bring peace to the community, in the hopes of becoming a driving force for the Philippine economy,” said Garcia.
Through the LANDBANK term loan, the construction of the GARECO refinery mill started in July 2022 and is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2024.
Its completion will likewise generate employment opportunities and expand the company’s workforce from five to about 35 to 50 workers composed of a mill manager, supervisors, operators, mechanics, electricians, laboratory analysts, and staff for administrative and marketing functions.
“LANDBANK looks forward to the completion of the very-first refinery mill in SOCCSKSARGEN. We remain committed to serve the development requirements of the palm oil industry and the whole agriculture sector towards inclusive and sustainable countryside development,” said LANDBANK President and CEO Cecilia C. Borromeo.
LANDBANK’s Term Loan Facility finances capital expenditures for businesses, including expansion, purchasing of additional machinery and equipment, and permanent working capital arising from expanded operations.
Interested borrowers can be a single proprietor, partners, or corporation which have projects on agri-business, manufacturing, trading, and other services.