Pineapple Cultivation in the Philippines


The western observer is deeply impressed, if he can have a closer look at the large plantations of pineapples - for example near General Santos City. It is difficult or nearly impossible to discover the boundaries of the „cabbage fields", even if you climb on the roof of a jeepney. The observer can see infinitely long line beds with different colour nuances and perhaps he feels pity for the farm workers working heavily in the heat. The production of pineapple contributes substantially to the export business of the Philippines. 

Production data 

The worldwide production of pineapple (1) reached in 2001 the amount of 14 million tons. 1,6 million tons have been cultivated in the Philippines, which takes now ranking place 2 in the world production after Thailand ( 2,3 million ). 

Also ranking place 2 with 21 % has the pineapple production in domestic agricultural production of fruits and nuts - behind the cultivation of banana (62%). The pineapple cultivated area in the Philippines is estimated at round about 44,000 hectares. More than seventy percent of these areas are situated in the provinces of Northern and South-Mindanao. About 30 percent of pineapple production is exported, one third as fresh fruit export, two third as processed fruits.  

Structure of the plant 

The about one meter high, short-stocky pineapple plant belongs to the family of the Bromelia. While most Bromeliads grow on trees, the pineapple is a ground fruit. Her figure reminds of agaves. It is a multiple fruit, flouring only one time in a vegetative period.  

A rosette of 30 - 50 green, fleshy leaves are growing out from the stem. The leaves are about six centimetres broad and can be up to one meter long. They are developed like sharp-edged saws and have reddish tops. The rosette wreath conducts the rainwater to the middle of the plant and develops so a water reservoir. Originally, the leaf edges have been provided with strong thorns as a protection against grazing animals. Modern cultivated plants however, have no thorns anymore. Round about 15 - 22 months after planting a 10 - 15 cm long inflorescence is growing from the middle of the leaves rosette.  The inflorescence has 100 - 200 crimson single flowers. Later these little flowers join together with the ovary, bearing leaves and blossom axis and form a fleshy multiple fruit.  

Five to six months after the blossom, the fruit develops itself. On average, with the crown of upper leaves it is thirty centimetres high and can occasionally reach a weight from more than 10 kg. However, market fruits are only 1 - 2 kg heavy. If the fruit is ripe, it has a pale brown, leathery skin, which is not eatable. The skin has spiral arranged, quadrilateral "shield-eyes", which mark the position of the single flowers. In the Philippine fairy tale the pineapple appears as the „fruit with the 1000 eyes" (2). This number is too high, if a plant has only a maximum of 200 single flowers. It is told, the more distinctive the eye formation, the more palatable the fruit.  The juicy, pleasant smelling flesh is yellow- reddish. Its middle is hard and usually not eatable. The fruit is crowned by a tuft of non-flowering high-sheets and can be used for propagation.  

The pineapple plant is native to Brazil and found with the Spaniards its way to the Caribbean and to Asia. There are several kinds and sub-kinds of the plant. The „Smooth Cayenne" (Hawaii variety) is mostly preferred because of its juicy qualities. The standard weight is 2 - 3,6 kg. Its leaves show no thorns. New sports are more disease resistant and have better shipping qualities. The „Red Spanish" (also „Native Philippine Red") is more round, smaller and has a coarser meat structure. The „Queen" (also “Formosa”) develops a smaller, pointed fruit body (0,4 - 1 kg) and  their leaves have thorns. 

Dietary value

As juicy fruit, the pineapple contains a lot of water (approx. 86%). It is a low-calorie fruit (50-56 calories on 100g fruit pulp). It is rich in vitamin C and has the ferment bromelin. Bromelin cracks egg-white, but is not a fat killer. It activates the digestion, prevents inflammations and supports the blood circulation. Pure pineapple diets are not advised. Unfortunately the vitamin C goes lost and the bromelin ferment can not develop its effect, if the fruit is processed to conserves. And more over the consumer gets punished with an insipid sugary, metallic taste. 

Cultivation and harvest 

The pineapple plant finds optimal growth conditions grounds on sandy-loamy grounds in the tropical lowlands with temperatures between 18 – 35 degrees. If the climate is too cold, the fruit becomes sour - if the climate is too hot, the pineapple can taste dull sweet. The ground should not be too wet; otherwise drainage of fields is necessary. The fruit is relatively drought-resistant; rain should fall regularly the whole year. Mindanao offers such conditions.

Most pineapples plants are propagated by asexually vegetative methods. In this case, the head of crowns of old planting (“tops”) or side shoots (“slips”) can be used. The commercial plantations prefer “slips”, because it allows a better control of growth. Also old plants can be used for a new harvest by cutting back the plants to 2-3 side shoots. But with several harvests the fruits are becoming smaller and smaller and less resistant. A new field needs first ploughing, harrowing and fertilizing. Sometimes asphalt paper or black plastic is used. Such covers reduce the growth of weeds, the work of hoeing and the use of expensive herbicides. The plants are set in one or two rows with a planting distance of approx. 30 cm. A modern planting-machine, which can also apply the fertilizer, can set up round about 5000 young plants. Per ha we find a plant density between 35.000 and 50.000 young plants. 

Ethrel or ethylene granular material is used, to synchronize the flourishing time of the plants.  Fumigation of plants is a protection against possible attacks of nematodes (threadworms). In monocultures we find very often the extensive use of pesticides. This use was very often criticized by a crucial public.  

The maturity of „Smooth Cayenne"- fruit is measured with help of a scale reaching from “0” to ”7”. „0" means for example that the eyes of the pineapple are still very green and show no tint of yellow color – while colour degree „7" is represented by a red-brown fruit, which shows already signs of decay. More less ripe fruits are suitable for fresh-fruit export or transport in remote areas while canned fruits can be riper. The harvest can be done by hand, half-mechanically with conveyors or full-mechanically with harvesters. The hand harvest with a special knife and mittens is a hard, arduous work. On average a hectare is producing a harvest of 36 tons; if the conditions are excellent a yield of 48 tons is reachable. The pineapple indeed has a thick skin, but it is pressure-sensitive. Therefore – after picking out fruits with injuries, diseases and insect damages – a careful storage is necessary. Even waxed fresh fruits should not be stored longer as 4 -6 weeks. 8–9° are regarded as optimal temperature for storage and transport. If the temperature is falling under 5°, the pineapple can get black spots. Frozen pineapples are losing aroma and taste. 

We should still mention the present conflict between the governments of the Philippines and Australia about the date of fumigation of exported fruits. The Australian government requires fumigation before shipment while the Philippine government prefers a „onshore-fumigation" in Australia, otherwise, the fruits would go bad. 


More than the half of the produced fruits in the Philippines is consumed as fresh fruits. But there are also other forms of utilization. Everyone knows processed pineapple fruits or juice in tins. But the fruit can also be processed to jams or candies from. Especially overripe and damaged fruits are used for the fabrication of pineapple vinegar. The pineapple vinegar becomes more and more popular. We mentioned already that the waste as mash can serve as fodder. More labour intensive is the fabrication of textiles from the fibres of pineapple leaves. Normally a Filipino is very proud to war an expensive barong made of pineapple fibres. Further information about a Pinya Barong you can get here. Sometimes the juice is also used for the production of latex colours, in the fabrication of leather or as tenderizer.  

Del Monte Philippines and Dole as market leader 

In Thailand most pineapples are produced by small farmers. In the Philippines we have another situation. Here production, processing and distribution are the business of multinational companies. The companies Del Monte and Dole are cultivating approximately 85% of the cultivable area. (3)

The California Packing Corporation - now Del Monte Corporation (USA) – started in 1926with pineapple plantations on Mindanao. Two years later the company managed already a cultivated area of more than thousand hectares. Later canneries were established. The methods of ground acquisition and the working conditions have been characterized as “precolonialistic” (4). Schwarzenacher / Vinke (5) are writing:  

"Agents have been sent and are to the small farmers in the barrios to persuade to “lease” their ground to an agrarian company. Tactics of convincing have been presents, alcohol banquets and journeys with foreign luxury cars. Who did not want to lease after these months of “friendship” with the front men and the resulting “Utang na loob” was threatened and intimidated. A farmer got 300 to 500 pesos per hectare for one year. For the agrarian companies this was a ridiculous small sum. However, the farmers had no experience with such a lot of money and mostly did not get any contract. Part of the received money was taxed. ... A not rich, yet relatively satisfied country population became so a crowd of underpaid industrial and plantation workers." 

The world economic crises caused reductions in production. In the Second World War some pineapple fields were converted into an airfield (General Mc Arthur used the new airport in 1941 for his flight to Australia.) After the end of war cultivation, procession and distribution was expanded – especially in the sixties, when labour costs in Hawaii increased and cultivable areas ran out there. In the eighties the food and cigarette giant JT Reynolds acquired Del Monte Corporation, but resold it in 1966. Today Del Monte Philippines has two main shareholders: 

(a) The Philippine Macondray and Co. Inc., a subsidiary company of the Philippine Lorenzo Group which is also engaged in other branches of agribusiness (i.e. bananas)

(b)  The Cirio Del Monte NV, which domiciles in Italia 

Both companies are main share holders of the holding company Del Monte Pacific Limited, Singapore, a holding company, which has owns the Del Monte trade mark in the Philippines as well as the license to manufacture market and distribute Del Monte products in the Indian subcontinent. Now and then it is still pointed out that Del Monte Philippines is belonging to an American company (6). This information is wrong. 

Del Monte Companies are quite good in public relations. But it is difficult to get an information about the size of ground property in the Philippines. In older literature, we find 20.000 (7) or 25.000 hectares (8), but it is not specified, if these figures also enclose leased ground  or ground which is cultivated by contract farmers by order of the company. Perhaps the question of property rights has lost relevance, because the Trans-National Companies (TNC´s) like Del Monte and DOLEFIL practise more and more - on the background of a more strongly practised land reform - the institution of „Contract Growing", which gives them a considerable right of disposal on pineapple production and marketing without the rights of ownership. Long-term contracts (ten years and more) are often signed, in which the farmers have to follow special orders (kind of fruits/ use of fertilizer and pesticides), when they want to sell the fruits to the company. The farmers are equipped with the necessary „inputs", they can only sell to the contract company. The president of the Philippine farmer movement Rafael V. Mariano (9) evaluated the result as follows:  „Massive indebtness is the result for the farmers while super profits are made by the TNC´s.” 

In 2002, Del Monte Philippines produced 664.000 tons of pineapples, 1, 5 tons of pineapples are processed daily to preserved foods. The main plantation, which can also be visited, is situated in Bukidnon, 35 km southeast of Cagayan de Oro. It is one of the most productive plantation in the world and has a size of over 9000 hectares (= 90 km2). A cannery with more than 3000 employees is nearby. Camp Philips is the biggest of the five camps. The plantation has schools (also an international school), churches and a hospital, which is cost-free for employees. There is also a lodge, an airfield and an 18-hole golf plant. The pineapple waste is fed to 50.000 cattle and the waste of these cattle is used as additional fertilizer. 

The American Dole Company started the big agribusiness in the Philippines in the sixties and trades under the name lDolefil. Place of business is the city of Polomok, which is situated 20 km  northwest of General Santos City. Here – with view on Mount Matatum - is also the place of the main plantation and cannery factory. It is mostly written, that the plantation has an area of 10,000 ha, one author refers to 12.000 ha. This plantation has also a club house, a hospital and a golf for executives. Other plantations are situated near the towns of Tupi and Tampakap. The total cultivation area of the company is estimated on 20.000 ha (10). We have no information, if leased ground or contractual farmer ground is included in this figure. The company exports 500.000 tons of pineapples a year. 

In the last few years Dolefil came repeatedly in public criticism. Issue of critic has been the water resources management of the company with negative consequences for the bordering farmers. Also the extensive use of pesticides has been criticised. Terisita Oliveros (11) writes: 

 “In the banana and pineapple plantations owned by Dolefil Stanfilco in Mindanao, women agricultural workers are constantly exposed to pesticides and other agrochemicals used extensively on Mindanao, women agricultural workers are constantly exposed to pesticides and other agrochemicals used in most operations of the plantation. The women are hired as ground sprayers, harvesters, canners and packers because “women do not smoke” and are “easier to handle””. 

On the other hand, Dolefil refers on with a certain pride to the fact, that the company fulfils the requirements of environmental control norm ISO 14001 in its banana- and pineapple plantations.  

Newspapers have reported from strike threats of the workers and employees, on the other side the company threatened to immigrate to Thailand. Dolefil is paying its labour force according a nine-level scheme. In 2001 the lowest group got 168 pesos daily, whereas the highest group earned 384 pesos daily. Executives got between 25,000 and 300,000 pesos (12). Other ssupplementary benefits and allowances refer to rice, electric and water bill, housing and a signing bonus. The profit-dependent bonus is a payment, which has its legal basis in the “Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Programme” from 1988. Roland Hanewald (13) is pretending that the earnings – compared with other agrarian workers - are “not bad”. But has there ever been a general agreement about faire payments? There are reports that the contract workers suffer much more from dumping payments and reprisals. 

© Wolfgang Bethge, in 2003


(1) http://GLOBAL MARKET.htm

(2) In this fairy tale a careless girl is changed into an pineapple; cited from: Dausien, Philippinische Märchen, Warum die Ananas Augen hat, 1978, p.73

(3) The Philippine Fruit Network, in:

(4)  R. Hanewald, Bildatlas Philippinen, Ostfildern, 2001, p.87

(6) f. e.:   Maren Gaulke, Naturreiseführer Philippinen, S. 103  

(7) Albrecht, G. Schäfer, Philippinen, 1999, p. 273

(8) L. Schwarzenacher / H. Vinke, Philippinen – Die unvollendete Revolution, Bornheim, 1987, p. 198

(9) Rafael V. Mariano, The Politics of Pesticides, 1999, in : 

(10) Albrecht, G. Schäfer, Philippinen, 1999, p. 273

(11) Terisita Oliveros, Impact of new world trade regime on peasant women in the Philippines,

(12) Allen V. Estabillio, Dole Philippines workers vote to strike, in: Minda News, 14.09.2001

(13) R. Hanewald, Bildatlas Philippinen, Ostfildern, 2001, p.87

(14) Alfred A. Arayo Jr., Contractualization´s cruel face revealed, in: http://