On Jan. 4, 2023, the Philippines and China signed the “Protocol of the Phytosanitary Requirements for Export of Fresh Durians from the Philippines to China,” which allowed the Philippines to export durian to China.
This March, Philippine farmers and exporters eagerly await the go signal for the first shipment to leave the country.
China is a huge consumer of durian, with most of its current imports coming from Thailand and Malaysia, and just recently, Vietnam. The Philippines is the next country to join this roster.
“There’s no definite date for export but farmers and exporters are eagerly waiting for it,” Emmanuel Belviz, president of the Durian Industry Association of Davao City (DIADC) and owner of Belviz Farm, said in Taglish, adding that there’s news that export could start next week.
A farm has to undergo certain processes before it can export its produce. This includes acquiring a farm code, adhering to Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), and so on. Around 59 farmers expressed an interest in exporting to China but so far, only about 20 plus farms and four packing houses await approval from the General Administration of Customs of the People's Republic of China (GACC). “But packing houses and exporters are accumulating more farms who they are helping apply for the requirements needed,” Belviz added.
While there is an emphasis on the Puyat, Duyaya, and D101 varieties from both the DIADC and the Department of Agriculture (DA), Belviz says that stating the type of variety isn’t required by many importers, and that this is the perfect time to push other durian varieties. “Other factories’ protocol doesn’t specify what varieties they will ask for, so other packing houses are trying to sell other varieties,” he says. “Actually, this is the time to test the acceptability [of different varieties] in the Chinese market… [which is right now dominated by] Thailand and Malaysia.”
Need to upgrade
Should the Philippines manage to capture the Chinese market, the potential for industry growth is huge. “The market of China is really huge… what Thailand produces for them isn’t enough,” Belviz says, adding that Thailand exports about 90,000 metric tons of durian to China annually, about 90 percent of what China’s imports. When the Philippines begins importing, it will be supplying about 0.04 percent — a small start, but also a huge potential for growth within the industry.
As of now, not many durian farmers — most of who are backyard farmers — are equipped to meet China’s stringent importation protocols and requirements, but Belviz is hopeful. “The challenge of the Department of Agriculture and the BPI (Bureau of Plant Industry) is to teach these farmers… Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). You should have proper recording for you to do traceability and… food safety,” he says. “But actually, the Association and the Department of Agriculture and some other farmer groups are helping the farmers to have GAP training.
“And from there… they can apply to the Bureau of Plant Industry [for the] Farm Code that will be used by the packing house or exporter to apply for that farm to be able to export. That’s how farmers can export to China: you have to partner with a packing house and an exporter which is also approved by the DA.”
The Philippine durian industry is looking forward to the success of this venture. “This will be a big help to the durian industry because without this market, we will have an oversupply,” Belviz says. “The local market cannot absorb all these durians.”
If successful, trade with China will come as a sweet victory for local duran growers who, Belviz says, as early as 15 years ago were selling their crops at a loss — “around ₱10-₱15 per kilo farmgate price,” or even practically disposing of harvests due to oversupply during peak season.
Beviz further shared that the industry only really started improving about five years ago, when the Philippines started exporting to countries like Thailand and Singapore, so it’s no surprise that local farmers are excited for their entry into the Chinese market. And this excitement goes both ways. “The demand for durian [in China] has really increased,” Belviz says. “Even now, the hype [in China] is huge, and we haven’t even exported yet.”