DELIA M. LUSTRE: Pioneer Rambutan Grower In Nueva Ecija

In the earlyh 90s, one rarely heard of rambutan being grown in Central Luzon. That’s probably because the people believed that the exotic fruit only thrived in places like Laguna and some places in Mindanao.

As always, however, there are the so-called mavericks who love to go against the grain, so to speak. Just like Delia M. Lustre, a native of Cagayan de Oro, who married Jose “Pong” Lustre, a rural banker in Jaen, Nueva Ecija.

Delia M. Lustre with her harvest of rambutan

In 1990, the couple bought a farm in Jaen which they initially planted to mango. Del, the maverick, had her own idea. She strongly suggested that they also plant rambutan. She had earlier tasted the delicious rambutan of Dr. Paula Umali of Quezon City and told Pong they should also plant some in their farm.

Pong was very doubtful, however, if rambutan will thrive at all in Jaen. After all, he had never heard of anybody planting this rare fruit in their province. Nevertheless, as an obedient hubby, he acceeded to the wishes of his wife.

The Lustres’ full-grown trees could yield at least 100 kilos in 2006.
Starting as early as three years from planting, the Lustres had been hrvesting fruits from the grafted trees that they obtained from Dr. Umali. At first, each tree yielded just a few kilos. But during our visit in 2006, the trees were already full-grown and were heavily laden with fruits. Del estimated that each of the 60 rambutan trees could yield at least a hundred kilos.

One notable thing about rambutan in Nueva Ecisa is that the trees bear fruit earlier than those in Laguna. As early as May, some the fruits are already ready for harvest. This could be due to the fact that dry season starts earlier in Nueva Ecija than in Southern Luzon. When the trees are subjected to early dry period, they usually start flowering soon after, especially if they are irrigated.

One good thing about early harvest is that the fruits can fetch a high price because there is no competition in the market. For another, the fruits are not exposed to destructive typhoons which usually occur during the rainy months.
Del was happy to note that some of their neighbors had also planted some rambutan trees in their backyards.

Now, you see. Being a maverick who goes against the grain can pay dividends.(Zac B. Sarian, Memoirs of an Agri Journalist)

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