Durian crunch hurts Dabawenyos

Posted on August 11, 2016

DAVAO CITY -- The regional office of the Department of Agriculture (DA) is allocating P2 million to cushion the impact of the dry spell on the city’s fruit industry, particularly on durian farms.

Among the interventions that will be rolled out are “procurement and distribution of durian seedlings, especially desired varieties to sustain the local industry,” according to DA-Davao Assistant Regional Director Maria Fe T. Orbe.

The DA High Value Crops Program earlier predicted a reduction in the harvest of fruits this year due to a dry spell that started in the fourth quarter last year and lasted until June 2016.

About 50,000 durian trees died from the drought, according to DA program coordinator Melanie A. Provido.

This week, the city council will look into the impact of the drought on the agriculture sector, said Councilor Marissa S. Abella, head of the committee on agriculture.

“We will ensure that our durian farmers will not be left behind in the rehab plan. Davao City is known as durian capital and [the fruit] is part of being Dabawenyos. We cannot allow any phenomenon like El Niño to severely affect production, especially that there is a growing demand for durian abroad,” said Ms. Abella.

Candelario B. Miculob, chair of the Durian Industry Council of Davao City (DICDC), said producers have broken through the international market with exports to China and Singapore.

Australia is another market that they are eyeing given demand for frozen durian, said Mr. Miculob.

“We need to seize the moment and also look at how we can intensify our presence in these markets,” he added.

Mr. Miculob said he has already written to the DA for assistance in addressing the biosecurity standards of Australia.

“We are faced with biosecurity problem since Australia is strict on this,” he said.

Mr. Miculob said the Durian Festival, now on its fourth year as a sub-event of the Kadayawan Festival, the city’s biggest event held every third week of August, will push through despite a shortage in supply due to El Niño.

“We expect a low supply of durian during the Kadayawan since some of the farmers have yet to harvest their fruits by September or October as a result of the drought,” Mr. Miculob said.

Durian Festival organizers have noted an increase in annual sales from about P500,000 in 2014 to P600,000 last year. They are aiming for P800,000 this year.

Based on DICDC data, there are currently about 8,000 hectares in the region allotted for durian, of which 2,800 hectares are in Davao City.

The region’s production has declined from 70,063.66 metric tons (MT) in 2013 to only 62,768.76 MT in 2014.

Other parts of Mindanao that have durian farms are the Caraga Region, Sarangani province, and parts of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. -- Carmelito Q. Francisco and Carmencita A. Carillo