DAVAO CITY — Farmers in Davao City’s upland Baguio district have started planting durian seedlings under a project that aims to develop an additional 500 hectares to meet growing demand for the fruit, particularly from China.

“If they started planting in June, in five to six years, the farmers will start harvesting durian… the demand is getting higher, especially the China market,” Davao Durian Industry Association Council (DIADC) Secretary Manuel R. Villanueva told reporters last week.

The Department of Agriculture-Davao Region (DA-11) and the Davao City Agriculture Office launched the Durian 500 project in May.

“The City Agriculture Office has started distributing durian seedlings. About 20,000 durian seedlings are targeted for planting in the 500 hectares that cover the areas of Baguio District that include Tawan-Tawan, Carmen, Wines, and Malagos area,” he said.

The local government and the DA-11 are providing other inputs such as insecticide.

Mr. Villanueva said domestic demand for the fruit, including in the Visayas and the capital Metro Manila, has also been increasing.

“We are expecting that (domestic) demand will grow so we will have to plant more,” he said.

DIADC President Candelario B. Miculob said the association is hoping that a bilateral trade deal between the Philippines and China will include fruit such as durian is approved under President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s administration.

“We are hoping that a bilateral trade agreement with China will be approved as this will also help attract foreign investors to put up processing plants here. We have asked the President to push for the bilateral trade (deal),” Mr. Miculob said.

Mr. Villanueva added that there will be an abundant supply of durian for this year’s Kadayawan sa Davao Festival.

Seven DIADC members will be setting up shop for the 6th Durian festival, a sub-event of Kadayawan, from Aug. 9 to Sept. 9 at SM Lanang Premier.

Mr. Villanueva said the standard per kilo price will be P80, possibly falling to P50 towards the end of the festival season.

Participant in the trade show are hoping to offer a “durian buffet” of several varieties at P180 per person.

“There are many ways to experience durian — and that’s the kind of food experience everyone can look forward to. We will be holding eating contests, special hour sales, and we will also be introducing new ways to eat the fruit,” he said. — Maya M. Padillo