Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
Unknown to many Filipinos, the Philippines is the second-largest producer and exporter of pineapples in the world – after Thailand. Although it is not native to the Philippines, the country’s tropical environment has proven ideal for plantations.
So much so that some of the world’s biggest pineapple plantations – Del Monte and Dole – are found here. Northern Mindanao is the top producing region accounting for an average of 61% of the annual crop, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Other top pineapple growing regions in Mindanao are SOCCSKSARGEN (South Cotabato, Cotabato Province, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City), Davao, Caraga, and Zamboanga Peninsula.
Among the pineapples (and there are several varieties of them), there’s only one queen – and it’s Queen pineapple (also called Formosa pineapple). Its fruit is golden yellow, spiny, and with a sweet aroma. The average weight is 600 to 800 grams. The juice is bright yellow. The total soluble solids of the fruit ranges from 10 to 14 Brix, on the basis of the maturity stage and season. Water content is anything between 80% and 90%.
Queen pineapple has a unique aroma that makes it different from other pineapple varieties. It is considered the country’s sweetest pineapple, with a pH between 4.0 to 4.5.
In Luzon, Queen pineapple is mainly grown in the provinces of Camarines Norte. A total of 2,525 hectares of the province is planted to this variety of pineapple; 82% of the total pineapple area can be found in the municipalities of San Lorenzo Ruiz, San Vicente, Basud, Daet, and Labo.
“With its production that dates back in the 1950s, it became the most popular cash-crop in the 12 municipalities and 282 barangays of Camarines Norte,” said the Laguna-based Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD).
To further boost the production of the country’s sweetest pineapple, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) initiated the Queen Pineapple Research and Development Center (QPRDC) in Camarines Norte. It’s one of DOST’s niche centers in the region for research and development.
In less than a year after it was initiated, the QPRDC has “now exceeded more than half of its target in its first year and is moving forward,” Ryan Sebastian Soyosa of the S&T Media Service reported.
The program is being funded by PCAARRD, which is actually a line agency of the DOST. It focuses more on the development of farm pest detection, general assessment, and mapping of Queen pineapple.
The three-year program, which kicked off early this year, has already accomplished 64% of its work plan, including the development of a software phone app for pest detection, classification, and crop protection management with farmland pest mapping and the GPC geotagging.
The work plan also includes detection of mealybug wilt-associated virus on Queen pineapple using real-time PCR Assays that can identify virus pathogens associated with mealybug by the molecular method in plant disease in the shortest possible time.
Also, part of the work plan is the transfer of viable Queen pineapple technology and standardization of planting materials that helps enhance high production quality and increase the income of farmers, as well as the identification of their roles through gender division of labor among small Queen pineapple farmers.
With these developments toward its first year of implementation, the program is poised on getting the green light for a renewal to continue their projects for 2022.
Riding on the momentum, program leader Dr. Arlene C. Alegre of the Camarines Norte State College also expressed high hopes that they will be able to share these research developments and results to farmers as main beneficiaries from possible study sites among municipalities with widely planted Queen Pineapple in San Lorenzo Ruiz, San Vicente, Basud, Daet, and Labo.
Pineapple is actually not native to the Philippines but to tropical and subtropical America. It was the Spaniards who discovered them and introduced them to the rest of the world, including the Philippines.
The first variety grown in the country was Red Spanish pineapple. The Spaniards brought it along with them during their voyages as the fruits could survive long trips and prevent scurvy.
In 1911, the smooth Cayenne pineapple from Hawaii was introduced into the country by the Bureau of Plant Industry. It is grown mainly for its fruits, which can be eaten fresh or made into juice. This is the main pineapple grown in plantations by Del Monte and Dole Philippines.
As a leading exporter of fresh and processed pineapple products in the world next to Thailand, the country’s export industry is increasing. Japan is the biggest export market for the Philippines, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
In 2011, the huge demand in China and South Korea for fresh pineapple prompted Mindanao-based agribusiness companies to expand their capacities by 10% to 20% that year.
The Queen pineapple generated the interest of buyers overseas, and recently, trial shipments were made to South Korea, FAO reported.
Other export markets for fresh Philippine pineapple are the Middle East (Sharjah, Jebel Ali, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, and Kuwait), New Zealand, Hong Kong, Canada, Guam, Russia, and Germany.