The Amazing Revival In The Cultivation Of Tropical Fruit Trees
Agriculture|August 2019

THERE ARE MANY tropical fruit trees grown for high income in South East Asia. These include pummelo, tamarind, guava, durian, longkong (lanzones), magosteen, jackfruit, mango, and many others. I carried out recent updates on three kinds of fruit trees, namely, durian, mangosteen, and longkong by visiting the production regions in Malaysia and Thailand. These countries are the leading and trendsetters in the cultivation of these fruit trees.

Pablito P. Pamplona, PH.D.

What was observed was truly amazing! There is a grand revival in the cultivation of these fruit trees. This revival is propelled by the almost unlimited demand in the world market, particularly in China, Europe and Russia. China has recently signed an agreement with Malaysia to accept ten 20-foot vans of durian fruits daily. Thailand has long been a traditional supplier of durian in China and is now exporting huge volumes during the harvest season. In China, durian is both consumed as fruits and for producing highly demanded added-value products. The price of durian ice cream, pastries, coffee, etc. is almost twice the price of products with non-durian components.

These fruit trees are also the leading choices for retirement – planted as good source of income for buying medicine and vacation trips. They also provide the highest income as reforestation crops. In Malaysia and Thailand, it is common to see wide forestlands of these three crops. As native plants of Southeast Asia, these crops provide excellent reforestation land cover just like narra, molave, and others with one major difference: these fruit trees provide farmers with regular high income annually, while the commercial forest trees just provide ground cover, with limited income.

REVIVAL STRATEGIES

In both Malaysia and Thailand, the old durian plantations are being rehabilitated. Old tall durian trees of low productivity or inferior variety are cut a meter above the ground and tap-worked to new varieties like D197 (Musang King) and other superior early maturing, disease resistance, and high yielding varieties (Fig. 1). New fields are being opened for cultivation by cutting rubber and oil palm trees and also include natural growing forest trees. Many environmentalists in Malaysia consider the expansion of durian cultivation as a new threat to the environment as naturally growing forest trees are cut and replaced with fruit trees, particularly durian. Their concern is unfounded as durian, mangosteen, and duku lanzones are native trees of the country which can provide very luxuriant and productive ground cover similar to many commercial forest trees. Fruit trees are planted using advanced technologies which include planting in mount for drainage and provided with excellent irrigation system installed prior to planting to ensure plant survival and long years of productivity even during long El Niño (Fig. 2). Adequate care, particularly regular fertilization, makes the trees fruitful four years after planting.

DURIAN HARVEST SEASON. . . WHERE ARE THE FRUITS?

During the first week of May this year, my wife, Emy, and I made a week’s documentation on the durian-leading provinces in Thailand – Chantaburi and Trat. It’s durian harvest season in these provinces. We noted trees with many fruits but the traditional marketplaces, which previously had abundant durian fruits, have now limited fruit displays; many are deformed and rejects (Fig. 3). Moreover, the price of the fruits was expensive – three or more times the price than five years ago. So we asked our Thai friends, where are the fruits? They pointed us to a typical durian community where several refrigerated 20 footer vans were lined up to be loaded with selected and classified fruits for export. We dropped in on one of the fruit stands and bought three deformed fruits of the Kradumtong variety at the cost of 200 Baht/kg or R360/kg, as compared to only less than R60/kg before. Indeed, the price of the fruits have gone up even in the domestic market, to the benefit of the fruit farmers. The increased income of the locals capacitated them to buy more durian fruits. This is a trend we also noted in the Philippines.

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