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Philippine durian growers still face challenges despite acquiring new export markets in China

Photo by Taveesaksri/Getty Images

During the visit of President Bongbong Marcos to China, both countries signed the “Protocol of the Phytosanitary Requirements for Export of Fresh Durians from the Philippines to China,” which opens a huge market for Philippine durian growers.

Durian is called “The King of Tropical Fruits” because of its big crown-like thorns. It is a tree that bears big edible fruits with a mildly sweet flavor and is popularly known for its pungent odor. In the Philippines, Davao is the top producer of durian.

“China is the world’s largest importer of durian. And in 2021, the top three fruits China were durian, cherry, and banana. Durian is increasingly becoming popular among Chinese consumers,” said, Federation Of Filipino Chinese Chambers Of Commerce & Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) President, Dr. Henry Lim Bon Liong, in a forum about the Philippine durian exports to China held on January 14, 2023, at Kamuning Bakery Café, Quezon City.

Opportunities

Durian growers of the Davao region are delighted to have the opportunity of having their durian be exported to China.

“This is really a big step for durian farmers. Hopefully, because of this market, it will open the doors to help, simple backyard durian farmers,” said Emmanuel Belvis, the President of Durian Industry Association of Davao City.

During the forum, the Davao durian farmers shared that the fruit was usually sold for P10 pesos per kilo. Now, there will be an opportunity for them to sell their product at a more profitable price.

Davao durian growers claim that the Philippine Puyat durian hybrid variety can compete in the global market. It is their flagship variety. It is sweet, glutinous, fleshy, attractive yellow pulp, and it is resistant to pest and diseases. Puyat durian also has longer postharvest longevity than the other varieties.

It is forecasted that there is a need to produce 54000MT of durian for the first year of the signing of the agreement amounting to $150 million. To meet the demand of the Chinese market, expansion of durian production was already mandated in the Davao region.

Challenges

The high price of agricultural inputs like fertilizers still burdens durian farmers. Aside from that, farmers should meet the strict standard of the international market. Durian farmers need to improve their farming practices to pass the phytosanitary requirements.

For the farmers to qualify, they need to get a PhilGAP (Good Agricultural Practice) certification from the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI). They will have to be accredited to have their own farm code. Farm codes are important in the traceability requirement.

Farmers should also have BPI-accredited packing plant partners. Then finally, the products should pass the China Inspection and Quarantine and General Administration of Chinese Customs (GACC).

The Chinese market is very strict when it comes to food quality, safety, and traceability. According to Belviz, small backyard farmers are struggling to meet these requirements.

The FFCIII together with the durian farmers in Davao seeks help and support from the government so that the small farmers have adequate training to meet Chinese standards for food exports.

“…We hope that the government – the Department of Agriculture and the DOST-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) will train durian plantation owners and packaging factories to study Chinese food standards; and also train the farmers on planting technique, using fertilizer, preventing tree disease, etc,” Bon Liong said.

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