KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian durian exporters have orders until the middle of next year, after China in May gave the green light to the import of the fruit in frozen form.
Five local companies have exported 565 metric tonnes of frozen durian, valued at RM24.3 million (S$8 million), to China in the three months since.
Prior to this, Malaysia was only allowed to export durian pulp and frozen paste to China, which previously got whole durians from Thailand.
Dr Tan Sue Sian told The Malaysian Insight this has posed a challenge, as the company will have to find a way to meet demand during the fruit’s off season.
Got five firms approved by the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Ministry to export the “King of Fruits” to China.
Dr Tan said Chinese demand will spike by as much as 50% during the durian season.
“We would receive orders of up to 60 containers. It will be quite challenging for us to meet demand because the fruit is seasonal,” he said, adding that the company is looking at ways to tackle the problem.
“The current price for a durian weighing 1.5kg to 2kg in China is between 199 yuan and 399 yuan (S$38.65 and S$77.49).
“The Musang King is the most sought-after variety, with its price going from RM60 per kg up to RM100 per kg.”
He said the whole fruits sent to China are frozen, and good for 18 months.
For frozen durian paste, most is sold to importers in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Nanning, Xiamen, Qingdao, Zhejiang Suzhou, and China’s second and third-tier cities.
Dr Tan said the huge export demand will not leave the local market starved of supply.
“While the better-quality fruits are exported, there are still lots more quality fruits for local durian lovers.”
Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Sim Tze Tzin has warned exporters that they risk losing their licence if they do not meet the set quality standards.
Only A-grade durians — those that weigh at least 1.4kg each — are allowed to be exported.
Sim said local companies should emulate China’s method of promoting durians online, as they are no longer confined to booths at trade fairs in this day and age.
“We hope private organisations will help us promote frozen durians, besides coming up with their own brands with the help of the ministry.”
He told The Malaysian Insight that the durian harvest in Malaysia is good this season, and there is ample supply to meet demand in both the foreign and domestic markets.
People in China, too, have started to grow durian trees, following the fruit’s skyrocketing popularity. China has areas with an environment, soil and climate similar to durian-growing countries in Southeast Asia.
It normally takes between eight and 10 years for durian trees to mature, but there is technology available to speed up the process.