Where goes the Durian King?

Oct. 21, 2008

DAVAO CITYThey call him the Durian King. When truckloads of durians arrive at the fruit stand at Magsaysay Park, the durian trucker no longer bothers unloading the thorny fruits in baskets. All the trucker had to do is throw the fruits at him and he’d catch them with his bare hands.

“It’s so easy,” said Alvin Pogado, 29, showing his callused hands. “Just follow where the fruit is going and don’t exert much pressure when you catch them so that you won’t get hurt from the thorns.”

Each fruit season in the last two years, when the streets of Davao get flooded with fruits, Pogado had stopped working for the fruit stand to sell durians on his own.

Renting a cart at P70 per day, he buys durians from an old contact at Magsaysay Park and pushes his cart all around the city to sell. He said he can sell 4,000 to 4,500 pieces of durians on rainy days, and as many as 5,000 on sunny days.
Mounds of durians selling as low as P20 per kilo have become a common sight during the fruit season here. This year, however, the fruits are sparse.

Although Pogado is already out on the streets pushing a cart of durian, the fruit harvest is not be as good as the previous year because of the rains that came too early in summer.

“When the plants receive a large amount of sunlight and are stressed in the long, dry summer months, they flower profusely during the onset of rainy months,” explained City Agriculture officer-in-charge Rocelio Tabay. “This year, the rain came in so early and the trees did not experience that much sunlight they used to get in summer.”

Larry Miculob, vice president of the Mindanao Fruit Industry Development (Minfruit) Council, also told a media gathering here that fruit harvests are not as good as last year. He said growers expect a decline in production this year.

What’s worse, according to Tabay, a certain pest called scale insects, are attacking lanzones trees in Davao city, affecting 60 to 80 per cent of the harvest this year.

“I was alarmed because I saw some of the plant leaves blackened,” he said. “You can’t expect them to bear fruits anymore.”

Tabay said that scale insect suck the leaves of plants, causing them to blacken and die. They’re also closely associated with bark borer, said Tabay. He said that months ago, the City Agriculture office called pulong pulong (meeting) among affected barangays to prevent the spread of the disease to other fruit bearing trees. Although only the lanzones trees were under attack, other fruit trees like durian were also vulnerable, he said.

Antonio Santa Marina, an agriculture technologist in Toril district, said the scale insects were attacking lanzones in Toril early this year, and multiplying very fast.

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