TOMATO PROCESSING. The Northern Foods Corporation in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte in this undated photo. This government facility used to process fresh ripe tomatoes into paste until the government abolished it last year to give way to privatization. (File photo by Leilanie Adriano)

LAOAG CITY – The Department of Agriculture (DA) has approved a total of PHP100 million to revive a tomato processing plant in Ilocos Norte.

Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Joseph Manotoc confirmed this on Thursday as he announced that tomato growers from which Northern Foods Corporation (NFC) sources its tomatoes may resume planting soon once the new management takes over.

“We have the PHP100 million from DA for our tomato processing plant. Hopefully, we can reactivate the NFC the soonest,” said Manotoc as his administration pushes for product-processing and agri-business to capture more stages of the value chain.

Tomato is among the high-value crops of Ilocos Norte with a ready market but with the closure of NFC that is engaged in tomato paste production in Northern Luzon, many contract growers have shifted to other crops.

In December last year, former president Rodrigo Roa Duterte ordered the abolition of NFC as it no longer served its purpose consistent with the national development policy, giving way to the company's privatization.

But the Ilocos Norte government, in cooperation with the DA, has been in constant communication with interested investors to reactivate the tomato processing plant again under a new management.

Established in 1984 as a subsidiary of the Livelihood Corp. before it was transferred to the DA in 2000, the NFC production facility processes into paste fresh ripe tomatoes sourced from around 3,000 farmers, in Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur with a processing capacity of 500 metric tons (MT) of tomatoes per day.

It supplies tomato paste to food chains, fish canners, and tomato sauce and catsup manufacturers in the country, comprising 13 percent of the country’s 30,000-MT yearly consumption. (PNA)