The promise of sweet tamarind | Inquirer Business

The promise of sweet tamarind

What is a product that copes well with climate change, can grow on marginal land, and can still make a good profit? If such a product exists, what is it, and how can I know more about it?

The product is tamarind, and we can know more about it from the Sweet Tamarind Center of the Pampanga Agricultural College (PAC).


Present situation

At this time, three of the most pressing issues confronting our country are climate change, unproductive marginal land, and the small farmer’s low income.


Sweet tamarind is ideal in confronting climate change. Among its most attractive features is that it is drought-resistant. In addition, it can grow on marginal land, which is plentiful and unproductive.

It requires a low level of input, none of which is chemical. There is no major disease that threatens it. Its production is easy to learn, and fortunately, it is very profitable.

According to Dr. Virgilio Gonzales, director for Extension and Research at the PAC, a tamarind tree can yield an average of P1,250 a year on a product cost of P227. Since 100 tamarind trees can be planted in a hectare, a net profit of approximately P100,000 can be derived on its fifth year onwards. While waiting during the first four years for the tamarind tree to achieve its full potential, approximately P50,000 will be needed. This, however, can be recovered if intercopping is done.

For intercropping, the tamarind tree is specially beneficial. Since it is a legume, its roots provide much-needed nitrogen to even relatively infertile land. The leaves that fall from the tree add even more nitrogen, thus maximizing the intercropping output.

Supporting structures

Both Dr. Honorio Soriano and Dr. Fortunato Aglibatad, current and previous PAC president, respectively, are giving full support to the sweet tamarind project. It is also assisted by different government agencies such as the DA’s Bureau of Agriculture Research, the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD), and most importantly, the municipal government of Magalang, Pampanga.

The Magalang Sangguniang Bayan adopted sweet tamarind as its “one town, one product” commodity, and passed a resolution declaring Magalang as the sweet tamarind capital of the Philippines. We highlight the LGU involvement here because it is the LGU, not the DA, that has primary responsibility for agricultural development.


Under our current government structure, DA plays a supporting role. The former DA agricultural extension workers have been transferred to the LGU. Thus, it is critical that the LGU take its agricultural development mandate seriously. Magalang has done this by promoting sweet tamarind through its extension workers.

The future

Already, food importers from Europe are eager to order sweet tamarind from the Philippines. However, our current low level of production cannot meet our domestic demand. The sweet tamarind from Thailand continues to retail at P250 per kilo, while our farm gate price is only P100 per kilo. This is why the PAC Sweet Tamarind Center has stated as one of its objectives: “To establish a functional production-market-consumer network nationwide.”

This should include the setting up of model farms supplemented by extension services, which are sorely lacking today. This is especially needed to address our current situation of climate change, marginal land, and small farmer’s low income.

When I asked Dr. Gonzales what he most desired, he said: “More LGUs should know about the promise of sweet tamarind. This can significantly help their local constituencies and improve their economic situation. All they have to do is call us. However, private sector groups with a minimum of fifteen members can request a three-day seminar from the Center.”

Since these extension workers are government people, their services are free. They can go anywhere in the Philippines. All they need is that their transportation and accommodation expenses are to be shouldered by the requesting group. Gonzales’ number is 0927-814-1448, with e-mail at

We recommend that LGUs and interested parties contact Gonzales at this time of climate change. This way, the promise of tamarind can result in the reality of a better life, especially for small farmers.

(The author is chairman of Agriwatch, former secretary for presidential flagship programs and projects, and former undersecretary for agriculture, and trade and industry. For inquiries and suggestions, e-mail or telefax [02] 8522112.)

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