Duterte fever raises grouper demand by 30%
The election of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as president has not only thrust the city that he has governed for 22 years in the spotlight.
It has also highlighted the best of what Davao has to offer – aside from the durian – its fresh seafood.
As visitors surged and hotels and restaurants filled up, the demand for tuna panga, prawns, crabs, and lobsters has also risen.
Mindanews reported that the demand for fresh grouper (“lapu-lapu”) has increased by 30 percent.
Before the Duterte fever, the city consumes around 900 kilos of live grouper a week. And with the city and its leader’s rise to international fame, restaurateurs found that their inventory of live fish swimming in their tanks were not enough.
Lauro Tito Ilagan, grouper farmer and one of the restaurants’ source for their live grouper supply, said the journey of the famed delicacy from fish tanks to the eager customer’s plate takes about 4 to six months.
There is also a secret to keeping the fish asleep for the trip from other provinces in Mindanao to Davao City. He said travel time increases mortality during transport.
The grouper are transferred to a canvass tank with blowers for aeration and water pump for filtration. The water is gradually cooled with ice until the fish sleeps and are easier to pack in plastic bags with medical-grade oxygen, and in styrofoam boxes.
Fish are delivered by mid-morning when the restaurants open and diners, with their children, watch mesmerized as fish swim around in their new tanks.
Ilagan, whose initial foray was prawn farming, believes high-value aquaculture is the way to go to feed the population and reduce stress on marine resources.
In the run-up to Duterte’s inauguration on June 30, Ilagan is traveling more frequently to Davao from Tacloban, where he is working on a foreign-funded program to assist fisherfolk under a Typhoon Yolanda rehabilitation effort.
He personally supervises large deliveries in Davao City’s restaurants.
“I also wanted to do my bit for the city and our mayor, para hindi naman mapahiya ang Davao at isipin na dusty and remote tayo,” he said.