DAVAO CITY—Mindanao, the country’s food basket, is now importing rice.

According to the report from the Mindanao Economic Development Council (Medco), the islands biggest importation last year consisted of US$138.28 million rice from Vietnam, making up 12 per cent of Mindanaos total imports.

Mindanao’s imports increased to US$1.153 billion last year, up by 27.87 per cent from the US$901.549 million imports in 2006.

The island has earlier been identified as the country’s food basket, and as the center of agribusiness and trade in the identified super regions in the country.

Virgilio Leyretana, Medco chair, however, said that Mindanao should stop thinking of itself only as a “food basket,” and should instead strive to export food products with increased value added, so, as not to remain at the losing side of the trading game.

He said that over the past years, Mindanao has remained to be the top exporter of raw materials, particularly banana, pineapple and coconut by-products. “We should stop thinking of ourselves as a mere food bowl, Leyretaa said, We should process what we have here before selling them.”

Rice production in Mindanao reached 999,212 metric tons in the first quarter this year, up by 4.7 per cent in the same period last year while corn output reached 883,409 metric tons, up by 22.31 per cent from the previous year.

Mindanao’s gross regional domestic product registered a bullish 7.2 per cent growth in 2007, up from 5.2 per cent in 2006. The island economy contributed 17.68 in the country’s gross domestic product, the total goods and services produced in the country.

Medco said Mindanaos GDP share is just a notch higher than the 16.5 per cent posted by the Visayas.

Exports also increased by 23.23 per cent, raking in US$42.59 billion for the entire year last year, from only US$42.1 billion in 2006. The island’s major exports included fresh bananas and sintered iron ore agglomerates, mostly bound for Japan, which accounted for 24.2 per cent of the Mindanao’s market.

The Board of Investments also registered P7.23 billion total investments last year, a 40 per cent increase over the previous year. The newly registered investments are estimated to generate 3,632 jobs, when actual operations start. Most of these investments are into power generation, coal and mineral extraction.

Mindanao investments kicked off strongly in the first quarter of this year, with P3.1 billion worth of new investments registered with the Board of Investments from 12 newly registered firms in Mindanao, estimated to generate 2,000 jobs. (Germelina Lacorte/davaotoday.com)

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