That’s one of the questions that the late Dr. Ben S. Vergara, a national scientist, once asked. That’s right. The sweet tamarind from Thailand has been introduced in the Philippines for many years now. Filipinos love to eat the ripe sweet tamarind so there should be no problem about the market. Yet there’s no locally grown fruit sold in the market.
Some local farmers, most of them hobbyists, have grown a few sweet tamarind trees in their backyards or farms that have borne fruit. However, we don’t know of any commercial grower in the Philippines who is selling his harvest in the market.
Years back, maybe more than 15 years ago, we remember receiving a press release stating that in no time farmers from Zambales will be making money from their harvest of sweet tamarind. Basis of the speculation was that thousands of grafted sweet tamarind were distributed free to the farmers in the province. Up to now, we have not seen or heard of a positive result.
Some hobbyists had bought grafted sweet tamarind from us. One time, the lady buyer approached us. She said that her tree bore a lot of fruits but they were thin, not like the full-bodied fruits from Bangkok. We were not surprised. She did not fertilize her tree at all. All she did was water and waited for it to bear fruit.
Dr. Vergara had his own idea why the Thai sweet tamarind is not grown commercially in the Philippines. He is quite positive the answer is that it is much easier to import than to grow the fruit in the Philippines. Importing the fruit is profitable because the price in Thailand is cheap whereas in the Philippines it is high.
We really don’t know what happened to the grafted tamarind distributed to farmers in Zambales. We can only guess. Perhaps, the farmers regarded them as just like the ordinary tamarind. Maybe they planted them but did not do much in taking care of them. They just waited for them to bear fruit.
On hindsight, we can say that there is one fruit from Thailand that is now grown commercially though not really in the scale that they are producing it in Thailand. And what is that? It is what we popularly call Bangkok santol.–ZAAC B. SARIAN