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Rita T. Dela Cruz

 Citrus Industry

Citrus is one of the most important commercially grown fruits worldwide with a global production of over 102 million metric tons. Brazil, United States, and Mexico are the three top citrus producing countries in the world with a 10-20% increase in production every year. Meanwhile, the Philippines contributes 163,090 mt or 0.16% to this total world production. Citrus ranks fourth among the fruit crops with the greatest contribution to the country’s economy, next to banana, mango, and pineapple.

In the Philippines alone, the national per capita consumption of citrus is 5.2 kg only compared to the 35-40 kg in many developed countries. In terms of area allotted for production, citrus plantation in the Philippines covers more than 35,000 hectares. Production-wise, citrus is also not far behind especially with calamondin, mandarin, and pummelo which the Philippines widely grows and produces due to their promising potential for development and global competitiveness.

Although the country produces enough citrus for Philippine consumption and still export to other countries still a lot of the produce goes to waste. One major constraint identified is the inefficient postharvest handling system. This is true in Malabing Valley of Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, the emerging major citrus growing area in Luzon.

The ‘Vizcaya oranges’

 Citrus Fruit

Nueva Vizcaya is considered the citrus capital of the country. Its soil and climate are conducive for propagating citrus varieties. The area is well known for its “Vizcaya oranges” which are harvested from July to January every year and are brought to different urban markets in Luzon through local traders.

At the heart of this citrus-producing area is the Malabing Valley Multi-purpose Cooperative Inc. (MVMPCI), a cooperative of all the citrus farmers who produce the oranges. The farmer-members themselves propagate the best citrus varieties especially those that command high value in the market such as the Satsuma (Japanese mandarin) and Ponkan (Chinese mandarin). Farmer-members also produce other varieties like Clementine (US mandarin), Washington navel, Valencia, and Hamlin oranges. These imported varieties have been successfully adapted to local conditions. The potential area that is best suited for citrus production is 2,000 hectares and farmers are hopeful that at least half of this area will be planted with citrus over the next five years.

Postharvest handling

Aside from production, an efficient postharvest handling system is also a crucial element in strengthening the stand of the Philippine citrus industry.

The key to good postharvest handling is careful harvesting. The quality of perishable foods is achieved from the moment they are picked or harvested. From this point, it is ideal that farmers should maintain postharvest conditions so that deterioration is minimized, and quality is preserved at its best. But this is easier said than done since most of the citrus farmers lack high-tech equipment and necessary facilities to properly handle their produce. Farmers also lack promotional strategies to expand their outlets. The leading source of overproduction wastage is the lack of postharvest facilities to preserve and process these products.

The study conducted by Ms. Rowena Q. Gutierrez, supervising science research specialist at the Bureau of Postharvest Research and Extension (BPRE) identified postharvest handling as the major constraint to attain high efficiency and productivity in citrus production. The other five important areas mentioned are: 1) laborious and tedious postharvest operations, 2) high postharvest losses, 3) lack of grading standards and procedures, 4) over ripening of fruits, and 5) limited availability of labor.

Through rapid appraisal, socio-economic and market survey, and documentation and assessment of existing postharvest handling and marketing operations of MVMPCI, the researchers were able to identify and recommend an improved postharvest handling system fit for the citrus industry. Generally, the recommended strategies are: 1) put in place support structures, 2) strengthen R&D on citrus, 3) enhance market linkages between producers and consumers, and 4) provide needed infrastructure support the farm to market roads.

Specifically, on the production level, the researchers recommend the following activities to strengthen the citrus industry; 1) effective management of pests and diseases particularly fruitflies to reduce fruit damage; 2) formulate locally produced fruit wax; and 3) improve the quality of produce in terms of taste to gain full acceptance particularly in the world market.

In terms of marketing, the researcher recommends a more aggressive strategy in sourcing for market outlets to accommodate their production and more importantly develop a competitive pricing scheme. Packaging and labeling of products are also crucial in establishing the identity of Nueva Vizcaya citrus in the market.

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This article was based from the study, “Towards the Improvement of the Malabing Valley Citrus Industry” by R. Q. Gutierrez, R. G. Idago, R. S. M. dela Cruz, and R. S. R. Rapusas of the Bureau of Postharvest Research and Extension, CLSU Compound, Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija. You may contact them at tel. no. (044) 4560213 or fax: (044) 4560110

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Other sources:
1. Fruits: The National Research, Development, and Extension Agenda and Program for Fruits. 2003. Publication prepared by DA-BAR National RDE Network for Fruits
2. “GATT, lack of post-harvest facilities hounds Ifugao citrus producers” by Ben Moses Ebreo as retrieved from: http://www.nviscaya.gov.ph/news/news7.html
3. “Total Citrus Production in the Top Producing Countries” as retrieved from: http://www.fas.usda.gov/htp/Hort_Circular/2004/08-04/8-31-04%20Citrus%20Feature.pdf

 

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