The main Philippines durian variety being touted for export is called puyat. According to Candelario Miculob, owner of local durian firm D’Farmers Market and former Chairman of the Davao City Durian Industry Council (DCDIC), puyat has already gone through some market testing and been found to be acceptable by both local and international palates.
“A key factor here is the flavour – puyat offers a lot of sweetness and creaminess with very little bitter notes,” he told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“These attributes means that it is suitable to be used as an ingredient for pastries or other products, but also very importantly, puyat durian has a very attractive yellow-orange colour that appeals to consumers, and will look very good when used as a food ingredient too.
“I do believe there is a very big market in terms of exporting puyat durian as an ingredient – we have already been selling durian pastries for local consumption for years so we know it is viable, and recently we have also had many queries from foreign buyers, especially from China, to purchase durian paste.”
In this area, the biggest challenge currently faced by the industry is that of processing – only 10% to 15% of durians nationwide are seeing any form of processing, whether it be into food ingredients or frozen for export, and the sole limitation here is the lack of processing capacity and not volume.
“We have been continuously asking the government for a bigger processing facility just for durian which can process large volumes on a daily basis, as during durian season, we can produce up to over 100 tons of fruit a day but without the facility to process these, a lot would end up wasted as these cannot be absorbed by the market,” he said.
“Davao is the main durian production centre of the Philippines due to the soil conditions and weather – it’s more tropical here, hot in the day and rainy at night, and with less frequent typhoons compared to Luzon – so we have some 8,000 hectares of durian plantation yielding 60,000 to 80,000 tons of durian, which is 80% to 90% of the total Philippines’ durian production. We need a facility here.”
Supplementing global durian supply
The Philippines durian industry is also eyeing opportunities for whole and frozen durian exports, banking on a seasonal difference between its harvesting season and that of more popular durian export countries Malaysia and Thailand.
“Thailand’s durian harvesting season is between March and June, whereas Malaysia’s is between May and July – Philippines’ puyat durian has an August to November harvest season, so we are in a good position to capitalise on the lean months of production,” said Miculob.
“We’re not looking at Malaysia and Thailand as competitors, but more to supplement the global durian supply during off-seasons and become another source for countries with high demand like China.
“Many countries are enquiring about puyat, and we are already doing some small exports to countries like Japan, Korea and Singapore which are open countries [in terms of trade] so we were able to enter. There have also been enquiries from Chinese companies, and we really want to enter the China market due to the big population and interest in durian there.”
At present, DCDIC is attempting to negotiate with the Philippines government to include fresh and frozen durians as part of its bilateral trade agreement with China so as to gain direct access.
“Durians are not yet considered a national industry, so government support for this is not yet at a level like that for other commodities – but we believe the potential is there,” Miculob added.
Export is vital
Exports are also likely be a key way of survival for the durian industry as just 20% of the Philippines population currently eats durian, he said.
“The majority of consumers are in metro areas like Manila or Cebu, and we have been doing a lot of promotions and marketing there,” said Miculob.
“The results have been good – 10 years ago just 5% of Filipinos ate durian but now it is at least 20% - but durian is really a fruit you either like or hate, which is why we are looking for a wider market.
“We also believe that with more help and support and the appropriate facilities to process more fruit, we can also do more to reach more markets both locally and abroad.”