By Zac B. Sarian
While shopping in our favorite supermarket recently, we checked the prices of local fruits available. We were really surprised that pomelo with good eating quality, sweet and juicy, is more expensive than we thought. For instance, one fruit that weighed just three grams over a kilo had a tag price of P248 or P240 per kilo. On the other hand, the shelled flesh or pulp was priced at P450 per kilo or P148.50 for 330 grams.
The likelihood is that the pomelos came all the way from Mindanao. Most of the fruits weighed less than a kilo so there were those that had price tags of P168 apiece and even lower. The shelled pulp was apparently packed in fractions of one kilo (330 grams, for instance) to make it easier to sell to lovers of pomelo with limited budget. Some people eat pomelo believing that it is good for slimming, we have been told.
We know that down there in Davao City where we visited twice lately, the price of pomelo is much lower. In fact, one farmer who is considered small-scale pomelo planter said he was already happy selling his newly harvested fruits at P30 per piece. What makes the price high when pomelo from Mindanao is sold in Metro Manila and elsewhere in Luzon is the high cost of shipping.
It makes sense therefore for us farmers in Luzon to plant more pomelos. But we should make sure that we get to know the good agricultural practices (GAP) for pomelo. We know somebody who planted a few hundred trees in his farm in Pangasinan but who eventually phased out his project. There are a number of reasons for this. He did not maintain his trees properly so they suffered from gummosis. He applied the wrong fertilizers so instead of becoming juicy and sweet, the fruits developed thick rind and the flesh was dry and not sweet.
There are many things to keep in mind when we decide to plant pomelo in our farm. Of course, we should plant the variety with good eating quality, adaptable to the growing conditions in our farm, reasonably high-yielding, and with other desirable characteristics.
There are good varieties now available in the Philippines. One of them is the Magallanes which is oftentimes referred to as Davao pomelo. This is the most popular variety that has been proven to be adaptable to many places in Luzon albeit in small-scale plantings. This variety produces fruits that are usually 700 to 800 grams each, especially if there are plenty of fruits.
Two other varieties that we have personally proven to be superior are the white-fleshed Nam Roi and the red-fleshed Da Xanh which are both from Vietnam. They produce bigger fruits, two to three kilos each. They have bigger vesicles than the Magallanes, juicy and sweet. There are also good varieties from Thailand and Malaysia.
Compared to growing carabao mango, producing pomelo has its advantages. For one, more trees can be planted in one hectare because distances between trees in pomelo can be 8 to 10 meters apart. In mango, the latest recommendation is 14 meters apart. Commercial fruit production comes much ahead in pomelo than mango. Grafted mango usually produces fruits commercially seven years after planting. In the case of pomelo, the trees will bear enough fruit for the market four years from field planting.
In pomelo, unlike in mango, there is no need to induce flowering with a flower inducer. It is also possible to make a main harvest and an off-season harvest in pomelo in one year. And a very important advantage is that pomelo fruits have a long shelf life. They could be kept for a month or longer under ambient temperature and as long as six months under cold storage. Carabao mango, on the other hand, has a shelf life of only a few days without refrigeration.
What is important to keep in mind is to take good care of the pomelo trees throughout the year. They should be regularly fertilized with the fertilizer that is appropriate for their age. All the time, the fertilizer which could be organic or chemical should contain micronutrients. If not, the micronutrients could be supplied separately. Gummosis and other diseases are minimized with the right nutrition. There are new plant growth accelerators like what they call biostimulants that can enhance growth, development, and productivity of the trees.
Fruitflies and rind borer are serious pests in many places in Luzon. But these can be prevented or minimized with techniques that are already available. What is important is that the fellow who would like to go into pomelo farming should seriously study the problems and their remedies. As in any agricultural venture, there are problems but there are also opportunities to make pomelo farming profitable.