Durian growers left high and dry

Ghazalie, 45, looks at a durian that fell after three months due to the extreme heat. — Picture by Marcus Pheong
Ghazalie, 45, looks at a durian that fell after three months due to the extreme heat. — Picture by Marcus Pheong

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KUALA KANGSAR, April 17 — Durian growers in Perak are experiencing hard times as their trees have stopped yielding the normal number of fruits and they have blamed it on the extreme hot weather.

Several villages in Padang Rengas such as Kampung Batu Bantal, Kampung Kuala Dal and Kampung Padang Assam, which are famous for their abundant harvest of durian kahwin (mixed species), are expecting to see a 50 per cent drop in their yield this season.

Durian farmer Chong Ah Kim, 53, said almost half of the trees he planted are dying.

“The hot weather and the absence of rain are taking a heavy toll on my trees. If the trees die, it will not only affect my livelihood this year but also the coming years,” he said.

Choong, who has been producing durian for 15 years in Kampung Batu Bantal, said if the trees die, he would have to wait another 10 years before he could harvest from newly-planted trees.

“It takes time for durian trees to grow and mature depending on their species,” he said. 

Choong, who owns a 4ha durian orchard, claims he expects to lose about RM5,000 in income this season. He said he normally earned about RM10,000 by supplying durian to wholesalers.

“It’s already April now. The durian season starts in the next three months and half of my trees have failed to produce any flowers because of the weather.

“If it does not rain in the next two weeks, I think I am going to suffer huge losses.

Samsudin Abdul Halim, 65, who has been farming durian for 40 years, said he has been praying for rain so that his 40 durian trees would not die.

“Durian trees are different from other fruit plants. Unlike mangosteen or rambutan trees, durian trees cannot survive without water in hot weather. The last time it rained here was two months ago. 

“The leaves, flowers and young fruits of my durian trees are falling fast. It is just a matter of time before the trees will completely die, unless it rains within the next couple of weeks,” he said.

Durian wholesaler Ghazali Pandak Karim said the low number of flowers produced by the trees this time was worrying.

“I have been buying durians from orchards for 20 years and it has been my sole source of income. My suppliers have already started lamenting their durian trees are not producing flowers.

“If they can’t supply me the fruits, I am going to face difficulty. The situation of trees dying and not bearing fruits is quite widespread.

“It is not only in Padang Rengas and nearby Bukit Gantang. Other wholesalers will be hard hit getting durian supply,” he said.

Ghazali said he made more than RM20,000 profit every durian season which he would use for household expenses.

“I can understand the plight of durian planters because even the few durian trees that I planted around my house are dying,” he said.

Another wholesaler Mazlan Bahari, 47, from Bukit Gantang, said the price of durian would increase if there was a shortage of supply.

“At first, I did not take the matter seriously because I thought it was just a handful of orchard owners facing the problem.

“But I learnt the problem is bigger than that. The growers keep saying they are expecting a low harvest this time.”

Mazlan, who has been a wholesaler for the last 20 years, said if it turned out to be a low harvest season, the prices of durian would go up.

He said he would likely be able to get only 10 tonnes of durians from his suppliers, instead of 30 to 40 tonnes previously.

“This year, I may lose between RM15,000 and RM20,000.”

Mazlan said durian growers near the Kelantan border, Kampung Gajah in central Perak and Batu Kurau, were having similar problems.

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