Judging from personal observation in supermarkets in Metro Manila, durian prices are much too high for ordinary consumers to afford. For instance, one fruit estimated to be about four kilos, had a price tag of P800 in a supermarket along Ortigas Extension in Pasig City. There were cheaper smaller fruits that remained unsold that were starting to be spoiled. That only means there are few buyers.
The durian fruits are sourced from Mindanao where the prices are more reasonable. What seems to be the problem is the high cost of shipping, especially by airfreight.To make allowance for spoilage, the traders have to sell at a high price.
One strategy could be to encourage more farmers in Luzon to plant durian for commercial purposes, meaning as an honest to goodness business. In the past many years durian has been successfully produced in places like Cavite, Batangas, Laguna, Quezon, Batangas, Mindoro, Rizal and elsewhere although in small scale.
One target for growing the fruit in Luzon could be the coconut plantations with aging trees that have ample space between them. Of course, there are many other suitable areas that are good for growing durian in Luzon. It’s true that durian is more sensitive to stress than other fruit trees but that could be remedied by adopting proven good agriculture practices. Durian is easily affected by waterlogging but that can be remedied by providing proper drainage. It can also be adversely affected by drought but that can also be mitigated by drip irrigation.
To adopt the improved growing practices, the Department of Agriculture should include durian production under its liberal lending program.
There are practical techniques that can make durian production in Luzon successful. One of them is the choice of the right variety. In Mindanao, Larry Miculob who is producing export quality durian in Davao City recommends the Puyat variety because it has been observed to be high-yielding and it has excellent eating quality. Another superior variety is the Duyaya with thick flesh that’s sweet and creamy.
One relatively new hybrid with good characteristics is the UPLB Gold bred by Dr. Leon Namuco, a former professor and fruit breeder of the UP College of Agriculture at Loss Banos. This has been proven to be high-yielding and with good eating quality. It is also claimed that it has a thick skin so that it is less susceptible to fruit borer. Moreover, the bottom end does not readily split even if it is fully ripe. This means it has a longer shelf life than other varieties.
The planters in Luzon should plan their durian farms well. First, they should refrain from planting very small seedlings. They should grow the seedlings to large planting materials (4 to 5 feet) before planting them in the field. That will ensure a high survival.
Another technology to adopt is to keep the trees low-growing. This can be achieved by cutting the principal trunk about 12 feet above the ground. That way, the branches will grow sidewards and not shoot upwards. If the main trunk is not pruned, the tree will shoot upwards and the lower branches will die. If the trees are too high, harvesting will be difficult. It would also be difficult to determine the right maturity of the fruits that are up high.
When the trees are low-growing, the fruits will be easier to protect from pests and diseases. It would be easy to determine which fruits are already mature and ready for picking.