Dragonfruit Production: A Profitable Business Enterprise
“See to it that you enjoy and you love what you are doing. Return of investment is not only monetary, it is also happiness”. This is how Mr. Esmundo Montañez describes how he operates his seven hectare dragronfruit production in Brgy. Maruaya, Piddig, Ilocos Norte.
Esmond as fondly called by his friends, learned about dragonfruit back when he was still in UPLB in 1980s from Thai students. The said students gave him dragonfruit which was new to him. Esmond described the fruit as one that tasted like turnip (singkamas). He requested his Thai friends to bring home planting materials. He planted the said planting material (white variety). He was inspired to plant dragonfruit in his hometown in Piddig in 2010 since it is peculiar in the north. He converted his mango plantation into dragonfruit plantation, since mango was a “monopolized” industry, he added.
He developed his dragonfruit farm gradually. Every year, additional posts and farm implements were put into place in the farm. He said that he learned the dragonfruit production from his readings and experiences with his friends in Thailand. He disclosed that one of his secrets to maintain his plants is frequent watering. He said that although dragonfruit belongs to cactus family, it needs water to bear more fruits. He waters his plants everyday, and applies vermicompost to his plants. He is into good agricultural practices (GAP), however, he uses commercial pesticide control when needed. Esmond maintains around 14,000 dragonfruit posts.
He did not modify the production technology of dragonfruit but came up with innovative processed products. Some of his processed products are dried dragonfruit, ice cream, dragonfruit candy, jam, among others. Mr. Montañez is also into contract growing of dragonfruit in other parts of the country as far as Tarlac, Bicol, Iloilo, Mindoro and Capiz. He charges Php 2M per hectare in contract growing, P1,000.00 per post with 2,000 posts for a hectare.
Esmond admitted that one of the benefits from the plant is the big income aside from the fact that that dragonfruit is a healthy food for consumers. He said that he can be apart from other dragonfruit growers in the province because he is not only depended on the said commodity. He is flexible to venture to other areas in agriculture. He believes that if a commodity has potential in the locality, someone should go into it and try it. Not all crops are permanent, he added. If dragonfruit is no longer a fad among the consumers, he can venture in another commodity that is new in the market. He said that he is a future thinker.
He considers the relationship he has with his laborer/helpers as his best practice. He said that one should be honest to his laborers because they can be a testimony on the technology. “My testimony on how to do it should jibe on how the laborers actually do it”, Esmond said. Likewise, he said that as landowner and manager of the farm, one should love the helpers because without them, the agribusiness will not profit. Share the blessings even in its smallest form because it serve as their incentive and they feel their importance to the operation of the farm.
He suggested that agricultural technicians or the agency assisting the dragonfruit growers be practitioner themselves to understand the problems and needs of the industry. He encourages the continuous planting of dragonfruit since as there is still limited production to meet the demand of the market. He also suggested to bring linkages or projects in marketing. The government should also act on marketing issues and implement consistent policies. According to him, MMSU should continue to be patient and educate the farmers.