Report: Malaysian ‘designer durians’ gain premium following in China

Musang King durians are seen during a tour at Lembah Temir Resort in Raub September 13, 2020. — Bernama pic
Musang King durians are seen during a tour at Lembah Temir Resort in Raub September 13, 2020. — Bernama pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 — Malaysian durians have gone beyond expectations and gained the top spot at China’s second largest shopping event, JD.com’s 618 Festival.

A report by international news outlet Bloomberg showed that the Sultan Durian from Pahang was the top selling variety in the fruits and vegetables sector, adding that sales of this “designer durian” surpassed even that of ice cream and peaches.

According to data from the United Nations, demand for durian in China has grown tremendously, with imports of the pungent fruit quadrupled to US$2.3 billion (RM9.4 billion) last year from 2017.

It added that durians have also taken over cherries at the number one spot for fruit import value in 2019.

Due to travel restrictions caused by the raging Covid-19 pandemic, “DurioTourism” — where Chinese tourists visit Malaysian farms to sample the best of what the country has to offer has come to a halt, but the demand for the fruit has not slowed.

Sam Tan, executive director MAPC Malaysia — formerly known as Malaysia Agriculture Products Centre — said that it imports 90 per cent of its fruits to China, adding that it had already set up seven centres to promote the Musang King variety in second and third-tier Chinese cities over the past year.

Tan, who is also president of the Malaysia Durian Exporters Association, said that it will add another 15 years to lure more consumers with free samples.

“Less than 10 per cent of China’s population has ever tasted Malaysian durians,” he said.

“With more farmers joining the industry, our supply is expected to expand at least 50 per cent a year,” Tan said.

Malaysia used to only send durians to China in the form of pulp and paste but won approval to export frozen fruit in 2019.

With the introduction to varieties like the Musang King and Sultan, Malaysian durians have garnered a reputation for quality and are sought after by aficionadas who see them as ‘designer durians’.

“Harvesting when the durian drops has been our tradition since the 1950s. Our foremost concern is ensuring quality and taste. Already the demand for our durians far exceeds our supply,” said Wilson Chang, a second-generation durian farmer in Pahang state.

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