PH sees big opportunity for durian exports to China

In promoting Filipino flavors in the global market, the Philippine durian has a "very big" opportunity especially in China but it comes with a lot of challenges in terms of production and market, officials said on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

“We think that the market for durian is huge in China and we have this opportunity,” Agriculture Counsellor to Beijing Ana Gracia Maria B. Abejuela said during an online press briefing of the Philippine delegation at this year’s 6th China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai.

In the expo, the Philippines showcased the durian variety "Puyat" at the national pavilion to expand its market and to attract more buyers in China.

Abejuela said the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Durian Industry Association of Davao City (DIADC), and the durian growers and exporters, are doing their best to ensure and maintain the quality of durian exports in China.

Accounting for 20 percent of the global market consumption, China is the third largest durian consumer in the world.

In 2022, China imported 824,000 tons of fresh Durian which was equivalent to $4 billion, with Thailand dominating the market share at 95 percent.

China welcomed Philippine durians for the first time after a fresh agreement between the two countries was signed during President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.'s visit to Beijing last January.

Meanwhile in April, the Philippines was able to ship its first batch of durian weighing 28,000 kilos from Davao City, followed by another 28-ton cargo via air freight, and 10 container vans loaded with 7.2 tons via sea vessel.

DIADC President Emmanuel Belviz said that the Philippines was able to export about 2,300 metric tons of durian last year.

Belviz added that the country’s global export of fresh and frozen durian has been tallied around 6,000 metric tons this year.

Based on the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) data last September, China has already imported 484,471 kilograms of durian from the Philippines valued at about $1.9 million for the first half of this year.

“We are seeing an increase of [durian] exports,” he said, adding that not only the export market has grown but also the local market since the hype of durian.

Challenges in the market

“On the production side, the challenge is the volume, and then on the market side, the challenge is really sustaining and maintaining the freshness and the quality of the fruit. That goes true for all, but especially the durian,” Abejuela emphasized.

Upon their visit to one of the largest wholesale markets in China, she shared that the “price is not a problem” for the consumers in China. As long as the product is “fresh, delicious, and maintaining the quality, then the consumers will buy it.”

“So, that’s the challenge for us, especially for our exporters, farmers, [and] growers,” she added.

Seeing the challenge in the production capacity of the backyard farmers, Belviz shared that they are trying “to fix the mindset of the farmers to be more entrepreneurial” in order to boost the production and improve the quality of the harvest products to enter the China market.

Belviz also noted that the country’s durian exports to China is quite far in terms of volume, compared to Thailand and Vietnam.

For the first half of this year, Thailand continued to dominate the Chinese durian market at a $3 billion export value, while Vietnam’s durian export was valued at $800 million.

Abejuela added that “volume has always been a challenge for all [Philippine] fresh and processed food products to China,” as the country orders huge bulks from the country.

As one of the steps to help increase the volume of durian exports in the country, Abejuela highlighted the DA’s plan to create a 4,000-hectare expansion next year, distributing agricultural materials and durian’s Puyat variety to the local farmers.

The DA also plans to improve the production practices of the durian growers in the Davao region where the majority of durian production is made.

Further, DTI Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo, who hosted the meeting, emphasized the importance of having a durian association which helps connect the local durian growers to access the support and interventions of the government, especially in growing their income.

For instance, Belviz cited that the government was able to provide useful farming trucks to such low-mechanized farmers, leading to an improved transport and delivery system.

Hoping to dominate the durian market in the future, Rodolfo emphasized the promotion of the Philippine brand, focusing on the sustainability of good quality durian products.