In 1968, Jaime Matabang and his family migrated to Santa Rosa, Pangasinan to start a new life. He was only 22 years old during that time and romantically dreamt of tending vegetables while raising his kids in their quaint tranquil farm. “Me and my wife tried to plant various vegetables for several years,” Mang Jaime recalls in Filipino. “We survived pretty well, although I couldn’t categorically say that we earned a lot. It was just enough to feed my children and send them to school.”
It was in 1982, however, when Mang Jaime thought of planting calamansi, also popularly known as calamondin (Citrofortunella microcarpd) a citrus fruit tree native to the Philippines, and the most commonly grown backyard tree in the country. This vitamin-C rich fruit is processed into beverages, syrups, concentrates, juices, preserves, jams, candies, etc.
The 62-year-old cheerful farmer said he got the idea from the farmers in a nearby barrio called San Jacinto, where people have been reported to have earned a lot from calamansi farming. “We started planting calamansi in our one-hectare lot,” said Mang Jaime. “We bought grafted calamansi plants from Talisay, Batangas. From there, our business flowed naturally.”
The calamansi tree, as Mang Jaime explains, bears fruit after two to three years from planting. As noted in agricultural journals, this native fruit can be grown in four types of climate, but areas with well-distributed rainfall throughout the year are the best. In Mang Jaime’s experience, one hectare planted to calamansi trees can yield a harvest of 9,000 kilos of fruits. “That amounts to 300 bags. We sell the fruits at Php500 per bag in Divisoria. We have our own stall there being managed by my nephew.
From a mere hectare, Mang Jaime’s plantation grew to seven hectares but admits that presently, he only uses two hectares of his calamansi farm because he divided the other five hectares to his two married children. Still, that’s around 1,500 calamansi trees and yields an average of four tons of calamansi fruits per year.
And just how much does Mang Jaime earn from this business? “As far as I can recall, the biggest profit we had was around Phpl.5 million. Net na yun. I’m not exaggerating, but there is really money in calamansi. We have a lot of success stories here. I can point to you several of my friends and neighbors whose quality of lives have improved from calamansi farming.”
Mang Jaime explained that one thing good about calamansi farming is that unlike other crops or fruit trees, it doesn’t really need much caring. “Of course aside from the usual watering and fertilizing, we spray it with pesticide once in a while but other than that, we just leave it there,” he disclosed.
Pests and diseases in calamansi are easy to spot, according to Mang Jaime. Zigzag marks, cuts and rugged edges on the bark indicate that the tree is infested with citrus bark borers.
Other pests such as the purple and glover’s scale, suck the tree’s sap until its leaves and fruits wither. “But we don’t really have much problems with pests. We were very lucky we never had serious problems,” said Mang Jaime.
What eats most of his production cost is his inputs and labor. As he further explained: In one hectare, we spend around Php40,000 inputs alone. For labor, we spend around 3,000 per month. We hire pickers and pay them Php5 per kilo of harvest. They earn quite well — around P500 to 600 per half day of harvesting. And they do their work so quickly!” Mang Jaime said he has long been persuading a lot of his colleagues to do the same. “Who knows? Maybe that’s also one of the reasons why we became so lucky. We really owe a lot to this citrus tree!”
Next read Growing Citrus Fruit
author: Ronald G. Mangubat, Marid Digest, photo from christian-simon.blogspot.com