Friday, October 17, 2008

Emerald Durian Palace

Note: Went to Cotabato City for 5 days and interviewed 10 people. Actually 12. One I interviewed in Davao and the other one I interviewed over the phone. This here below is a result of the interview I had over the phone.

In Tagum City, there are about 1,032 hectares planted with durian trees. Famers are motivated to grow durian through a city government scheme that offers them seeds, fertilizers and trainings in how to start their own durian farms. Only during the fourth year when the first durian fruits are harvested, does the government collect 30% of the costs of the inputs which the farmer availed of.

Alma Uy, whose family has been cultivating durian in some 50 hectares of land in Tagum City since 1995, does not regard these other durian farmers as competition. In fact, Alma has always been eager to help out and buy the surplus of others in order to use as main ingredient for her growing business: Emerald Durian Palace. In this 40 feet wide and 64 feet long durian processing plant, some 10 workers create more than 20 different kinds of durian-filled delicacies such as durian buns, durian loafs, Brazo de Mercedes with durian filling, durian cake, durian blondies, durian cashew bars, etc.

The durian jam, in particular, has become one of Emerald Durian Palace’s most sought-after products especially during the month of Ramadan because the carbohydrate-rich durian is an excellent source of energy for fasting Muslims. Alma proudly explains that Emerald Durian Palace’s brand of durian jam contains no extenders such as flour; only durian, sugar and milk are used which give the jam its authentic durian taste.

How Alma managed to build this small durian empire over time is an interesting story. In those early years when the Uy family’s durian farm was still new, its 7,000 hybrid durian trees from Malaysia and Thailand produced more durian than could be sold in time. Faced with low market prices because supply exceeded consumer demand, Alma decided to venture into durian processing – beginning with durian pastillas.

In her search for the perfect recipe, she found someone to teach her and eventually bought the recipe for 20,000 pesos while continuing to experiment with other concoctions. Today, Alma has expanded her durian delicacies from pastillas to cookies, tarts, polvoron, pies, hopia, and so on. These are now being sold in department stores and outlets in Tagum City, Davao City, Cebu City, Zamboanga City, and Cotabato City.

Business has been so good that Alma has set her sights on franchising and exporting. The much-needed boost arrived in November 2007 when the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) invited her to join a seminar on how to get halal accreditation for her products. Realizing that this was a chance to possibly export her successful durian jam to Muslims living abroad, Alma did what the Muslim Mindanao Halal Certification Board, Inc. asked her to do. She hired two Muslim employees, provided all employees with uniforms, bought better food processing equipment, covered all the wooden rolling pins with stainless sheets, put a screen over the oven, renovated the restrooms, and bought ingredients from suppliers which had been certified halal.

Several months later, on July 1, 2008, the durian jam of Emerald Durian Palace was certified halal by the MMHCBI who also offered to help distribute the product to other Muslim-dominated areas in Mindanao. In no time, sales doubled, especially in Cotabato City area where the armed conflict has not managed to halt transportation. Alma, nevertheless, remains invigorated by the MMHCBI’s support and is bent on having one product certified halal every two months.


Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

irish said...

i love your products. Can i apply as a Food Technologist? I am very much willing to become part of your work force. I am Irish Capisinio,BSFood Technology graduate last April 8,2010.I know how to make jam and jellies. Please contact me 09105530850. I'm from Pindasan, mabini comval province. I hope you will arrange me for an interview. Thank you.