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Friday, June 25, 2021

Putting back the crown on the ‘King of Fruits’: Promoting Durian through the lockdowns

(Last of a series)

DAVAO CITY – Mindanao’s dwindling durian industry may have taken another bad hit due to logistic interruptions because of the strict Covid-19 lock downs but a government agency has emerged as its ‘knight in shining armor.’

Noel Provido spokesperson for the Region 11 office of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in an interview by People’s Forum revealed that even a global pandemic has not stopped their office from promoting the ‘King of Fruit.’

DURIAN FEST IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC

Despite the cancellation of Davao City’s Kadayawan festivities in August 2020, DA still launched the “Durian Festival” held at SM Mall in Lanang although in smaller displays and even continued assisting durian farmers of shipping the fruit to Manila.

SHIPPING DURIAN THROUGH THE LOCKDOWNS

The Department of Agriculture in an earlier issued press release said, to make these fruits accessible to consumers in Metro Manila, the Department of Agriculture – Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (DA-AMAS) partnered with Maersk and MCC Transport Philippines to bring tons of fruits to the National Capital Region (NCR). The exploratory talks between DA-AMAS and Maersk and MCC Transport Philippines started in June 2020.

Maersk and MCC Transport Philippines are accommodating the first shipment of fruits from Davao to Manila for free with eight tons of durian and eight tons of mangosteen. These were from the farmers of Durian Industry Association of Davao City that will be shipped from Sasa Davao City to Manila Port on September 26, 2020, through the efforts of DA Regional Field Office Region 11.

Accommodation includes providing trucks to pick-up and deliver the products from the seaport, as part of their service. The free shipment of agri products is their contribution to address the logistic needs of the agriculture sector in support of food security and accessibility.

Transporting agri commodities by land was one of the challenges the agriculture sector faced with when NCR was placed under enhanced community quarantine in March. This opened several discussions on the importance of pre-positioning, government support to marketing and logistics, and strengthening partnerships with the private sector.

Recognizing that food security will also entail inter-island shipment of agri commodities to address both food sufficiency and oversupply in certain areas, Maersk and MCC Transport Philippines proactively offered assistance for logistics.

DURIAN 500

But even before the pandemic, the DA continues to implement policies and develop programs that help revive the durian industry. In May 30, 2019, DA in coordination with the Davao City Agriculture Office launched “Durian 500” which aims to expand 500 hectares of durian plantation in the Baguio District. About 10,000 durian seedlings of the Puyat variety were initially distributed to Indigenous People (IP) beneficiaries. The program aims to link durian produce of tribal communities with the buyers in anticipation to the growing demand of durian in export market particularly China.

Municipal Agriculture Officer James Arly Danac of Baguio District takes a selfie with several durian seedlings distributed to IP beneficiaries. (photo courtesy of AgriInfoDavao Facebook page)

E-COMMERCE

DA has also joined the E-Commerce bandwagon to assist all kinds of farmers with the launching of its digital portal “Deliver-E.” Deliver-E was organized in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Food Terminal Inc. (FTI), farm cooperatives, the private sector, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Together, on December 14, 2020, they held a virtual pledge signing. The online platform will help build the capacities of farmers and fisherfolk to become more productive and prepared in the post-pandemic world.

GOOD NEWS FOR MINDANAO’S DURIAN

Provido said there is no bilateral agreement yet between the Philippines and other countries for the export of durian but for now it is all about ‘backdoor shipment’ through Singapore and Hong Kong.

Noel T. Provido spokesperson for the Region 11 office of the Department of Agriculture (DA). (photo courtesy of Noel T. Provido’s Facebook page)

He added that the Puyat variety has gained acceptance both in domestic and international  market because it is more prolific, meaty, and has smaller “pericarp” (spines). It is less pungent in smell and the shape is bigger.

As far as the global market is concerned, Philippines is not a competitor of its Asean counterparts since Philippine durians’ fruiting season is from August to October, the same months which is off-season for durians of Thailand and Indonesia. Philippines complements for these countries by exporting durian during these countries’ off-season while Thailand and Indonesia in turn, export during Philippines’ off-season. “Sa global market, the Asean region could sustain and provide it without competing,” Provido ends. (GAF)

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