FARMERS said ahead of the July durian harvest that they do not know how the Philippines will service China export demand, based on their estimates for crop volume.

“We are wondering where the durian will come from,” Federation of Free Farmers Raul Q. Montemayor told BusinessWorld by phone.

He said his conversations with durian farmers in Davao indicate that while they are confident about meeting Chinese quality standards, volume is another matter.

The Davao Region accounts for 78% of national production of durian.

On Thursday, the government announced plans to ship an initial 7,500 metric tons (MT) of durian in March, part of commitment to export around 50,000 MT.

Mr. Montemayor said that the Department of Agriculture (DA) should validate whether the current volume of durian is sufficient to meet demand and whether they were certified as grown using good agricultural practice guidelines.

He said competitors like Vietnam and Thailand have “prepared their market for a long time.”

“They have already trained their farmers on good agricultural practice. They have already built post-harvest facilities. So, when China opened up the market, they are ready to supply. We are very far behind so it will take some time before we are able to tap that kind of market.”

He said an export market will serve to cushion farmers from the domestic drop in prices usually during the third quarter of the year.

In a statement on Friday, DA Regional Executive Director Abel James I. Monteagudo said the regional office in Davao was monitoring the farms as they bear fruit starting next month.

“We will be monitoring fruit bearing trees to be harvested in March to assure good quality durian that will be sent out as our first shipment,” Mr. Monteagudo said.

Mr. Montemayor noted that Chinese investors have bought or rented land in the Davao Region to develop their own plantations, raising the prospect that farmers might be reduced to the status of farmhands. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera