Philippine-grown durian has huge potential in the export market, according to a fruit expert who used to be a professor at a university in Mindanao and now a full-time entrepreneur engaged in commercial production of durian and other exotic fruit trees.
He is Dr. Pablito P. Pamplona who has been undertaking research not only in fruit production but also in marketing in the Philippines and abroad. He has been regularly writing articles for Agriculture Magazine published by Manila Bulletin.
In his latest article for publication, he cited the huge demand for durian in China which is currently supplied by Thailand and Malaysia. Very recently, Malaysia has signed an agreement to supply China with 20 containers of 20-footer vans loaded with semi-processed durian every day. China will pay US$1.90 per kilo of semi-processed durian which is a fairly good price, according to Dr. Pamplona.
Of course China is just one of the countries interested in importing durian. Thailand and Malaysia are the two Asean countries which are exporting durian. Other big buyers aside from China are South Korea, Japan, countries in Europe, the United States and elsewhere.
The supply from Thailand and Malaysia, however, cannot meet the increasing demand for the exotic fruit so that farmers are replacing some of their present crops like oil palm with durian. The main supplies from the two countries are also limited by the seasonality of fruiting in durian. The bulk of production in Thailand and Malaysia is harvested during the months of April to August.
Dr. Pamplona said that the Philippines can take advantage of the varying harvest seasons of durian in the different Asean countries. The bulk of durian production in the Philippines, he said, is from August to November. So it can supply the demand in China and other countries when Thailand and Malaysia no longer have the supply of durian fruits.
At present the area planted to durian in the Philippines is estimated to be 17,000 hectares. To meet the big volume required by foreign importers, Dr. Pamplona recommends that the area be increased to eight times more. That would amount to 136,000 hectares.
Most of the durian plantations are located in Mindanao. But there are also successful plantings in the Visayas and Luzon. A big durian plantation is in Pontevedra, Negros Occidental owned by businessman Danding Cojuangco.
In Luzon, there are smaller plantings in Laguna and Batangas. Many of the planters in Luzon are hobbyists who love to eat durian. Succesful fruiting of durian in Luzon has been observed in Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal, Bataan, Cavite, Palawan and elsewhere albeit many are backyard plantings. Nevertheless, it has been proven that durian can also be grown in Luzon with the adoption of the right varieties and production technologies. Dr. Pamplona has earlier authored a book on durian production.
The Philippines has its own native durian cultivars but although the eating quality of many is very good, the pulp yield is very low. It is not as fleshy as the varieties from Thailand and Malaysia.