Eight hours southeast of Metro Manila is the Province of Camarines Norte with Daet as its capital. Tourists usually visit the province in search for the white-sand paradise that is the Calaguas Group of Islands but Camarines Norte holds another thing of beauty beneath the shade of its palm trees: the Queen Pineapple.

Sweet success from Queen Pineapple vinegar 1

“Ang Queen Pineapple ay matamis kesa sa ibang variety. Tsaka kapag kinakain siya, ito ay crunchy,” described Mr. Reynaldo Retosis of San Lorenzo Ruiz. He has been directly buying Queen Pineapple by bulk from local farmers for the past three years.

If one were to visit Daet, it wouldn’t take much of an effort to discover countless pineapple-based products lining the shelves of its pasalubong centers. Among these are Queen Pineapple wine and vinegar.

The Women and Families of San Lorenzo Ruiz Association is a 30-member organization based in Camarines Norte that is into the processing of wine and vinegar from Queen Pineapple. According to Imelda Pimentel, the association’s treasurer, the idea of processing Queen Pineapple into vinegar and wine only came naturally as the raw material that was readily available in their area. Through the assistance from the Department of Agriculture (DA), the women’s group underwent product development training and was also given an industrial juicer that can convert pineapple chunks into juice that would then be fermented into wine or vinegar. They also sell pineapple juice but for now it is only by order, since their juice does not contain any preservatives.

According to the women of the association who also serve as homemakers in their respective households, the vinegar they make from Queen Pineapple is best used when cooking chicken adobo as it adds more flavor and aroma to the dish. Ms. Virgina Rancho, chair of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Association, said that the vinegar has been a favorite of their local customers as it has helped maintain their blood pressure from getting too high.

Camarines Norte’s pineapple industry wasn’t as vibrant as it is today. When Mr. Innocencio Obredo began his work at DA in 1987 as a researcher, pineapples were only sold within the Bicol Region. “…marami sa mga nagtatanim ang gumagamit ng mga traditional na pamamaraan. Ilan dito ay ang paggamit ng di parehong laki ng pagtatanim, kakulangan ng inilalagay na pataba, di maayos na pagpapabunga,at kakulangan ng kaalaman sa postharvest handling,” he added.

Seeing the potential of Queen Pineapple to become the Province’s champion commodity, Mr. Obredo and his colleagues set out to do pioneering research that identified the good agricultural practices that would improve the taste and yield of Queen Pineapple.

Today, Mr. Obredo is the chairman of the Bicol Pineapple Board for the Province of Camarines Norte. He has been involved with the 37 research initiatives on pineapple production.

“Marami na ang mga technologies na na-develop from Queen Pineapple, isa na dito kung papaano ma-attain yung pinaka-ideal size for importation; ikalawa, yung sweetness nito ay improved; ikatlo, kung papaano naming itatanim in an ideal distance of planting ang Queen Pineapple sa isang buong ektarya.” said Ms. Luz Marcelino, research division chief of the Bicol Integrated Agricultural Research Center (BIARC), DA-Regional Field Office (RFO) 5.

Mr. Obredo also did research on the use of fertilizers which can induce off-season fruiting so that local farmers won’t be confined in just one batch of harvested pineapple per season. His studies on the good agricultural practices on Queen Pineapple production are now packaged into technology guides published in local vernacular. The technology is also shared through farmer’s field schools and hands-on trainings conducted by other government agencies like the Agricultural Training Institute and the Department of Agrarian Reform.

Today, most pineapple growers have managed to increase their yield to 20-30 percent by adopting technologies introduced by the DA.

Queen Pineapple is continuously brought to Manila and cooperatives, like Labo Progressive Multi-Purpose Cooperative, have products showcased in supermarkets all over the Bicol region.

According to Ms. Marcelino, community based organizations that process pineapple products help maximize the harvest of pineapple growers. “Dahil sa surplus of production, kalimitan may hindi pumapasa sa quality control. Kaya namin isinagawa ang project na ‘Utilization and Processing of by-products out of Pineapple.’ Ito ay isang BAR-funded project na isinagawa noong 2008 at maganda naman ang kinlabasan kasi may mga takers kaagad sa aming mga teknolohiya,” added Marcelino.

A lot of the pineapple products in Camarines Norte are processed into batterball pineapples, these are ripened pineapples that have failed to grow in size due to poor cultural management. It tastes the same as regular sized queen pineapples, but way smaller, usually about the size of a man’s fist. Batterball pineapples do not make it to Manila and are sometimes thrown away because no one would buy them. Through the community-based processing centers, batterball pineapples are utilized as main ingredients for products such as pastries, juices, wine, and vinegar.

Still, one of the challenges faced by Ms. Rancho and Ms. Pimentel of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Association is their supply of pineapple. Having been invited to a number of trade fairs where the demand for their products is high, Pimentel expressed their need for an area where they can grow their own supply of Queen Pineapple, and the support needed to put up a production facility in order for their products to secure Bureau of Food and Drugs accreditation. Right now, their association relies on its women members to buy the excess harvest from their farmer husbands who manage pineapple plantations.

Another challenge faced by pineapple growers in Camarines Norte was observed by both Ms. Marcelino and Mr. Hetosis. They pointed out the need for farmers to adhere to a cropping calendar that would ensure a steady supply of Queen Pineapple throughout the year.

“Minsan ang nangyayari po ay dahil walang control yung pag-aani halos nagsasabay sabay yung supply ng pineapple at doon po bumababa yung presyo ng pinya,” revealed Mr. Retosis.

This year, Camarines Norte Lowland Rainfed Research Station (CNLRRS), BIARC’s research station in Daet, Camarines Norte, is working on a compendium project under the leadership of Ms. Maria Christina Campita, senior science research specialist at CNLRRS, that would consolidate the extensive body of knowledge on pineapple generated by research and development (R&D) activities in the region. This compendium project serves as a user manual for Good Practices (GP) stakeholders highlighting the technology generated, existing practices, success stories, and SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis of the industry.

Through the continuous R&D efforts of DA-RFO 5 and the growing enterprises established in Camarines Norte, Queen Pineapple has grown to be a sweet staple of Bicolandia.

Seeing the success of the research projects focusing on Queen Pineapple, BIARC, CNLRRS, Aklan State University, and the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) have moved on to adopting similar research strategies in improving the yield of other pineapple varieties such as Red Spanish Pineapple. This was after Secretary Emmanuel Piñol’s marching orders for BAR to conduct research initiatives aimed at improving the taste of the Red Spanish Pineapple variety which is usually only used for fiber production. ###Ephraim John J. Gestupa (https://www.bar.gov.ph)

For more information:
Maria Christina F. Campita
Senior Science Research Specialist
Department of Agriculture
Camarines Norte Lowland Rainfed Research Station
Calasgasan, Daet, Camarines Norte
Mobile: +63 09395668973
Email: christina.campita@gmail.com