Durians are not welcomed here…

Several food items are being classified as ‘controlled items’ and require permits from controlling agencies before they can be brought into Singapore


SINGAPORE is known as a “fine country”. Not only is it a fine country to live and work in, but it is also famous for the harsh fine system it has in order to keep the country in the highest standards.

Among the offences that could cost you a pretty penny include feeding pigeons, using another user’s WiFi and forgetting to flush the toilet.

Meanwhile, several food items are also under strict law there like chewing gum and durian. Those entering Singapore best read up on the guidelines from its Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) before bringing in some “ole-ole” for your friends or relatives.

According to the ICA, several food items are being classified as “controlled items” and require permits or authorisation from relevant controlling agencies before they can be brought into Singapore.

The items include barbequed meat, poultry products and seafood while liquor products are categorised under “dutiable” as they are exceeding the duty-free concessions or tax relief.

In 2016, a Singaporean man was jailed for sneaking in 105 packets of “Ramly” beef patties, weighing 40kg, from Malaysia without a licence. He was jailed for nine months and fined US$8,000 (RM23,830) for the act and for speeding off from an inspection pit at Tuas Checkpoint.

Never free from controversy, the king of fruits is banned from being eaten in outdoor spaces throughout Singapore and carrying it on public transport is prohibited because of its pungent smell.

It was for this reason also that durians were prohibited at the recent Malaysia Fest 2019 last month.

When the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama) brought a load of durian to Singapore, it was told that the fruits had to make a U-turn.

Fama was in the republic to promote Malaysia’s agricultural products at the event, which was held at the Singapore EXPO from July 25 to 28, 2019. It had received more than 90,000 visitors.

The Singaporean authority had reportedly informed Fama the durian fragrant at such a large scale was not appropriate for the venue.

Singaporeans were said to be devastated at finding out that durians were off the table at the festival.

An event organiser senior executive in Kuala Lumpur said Fama should have been notified prior to the event about the rules and regulations of the venue, and the types of items allowed there.

“We know that Singaporeans are as enthusiastic as Malaysians, if not more, about durian. A special arrangement could have definitely been arranged to cater to the fruit if it was expected to bring good revenue,” she told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Fama had been promoting durian, particularly from the plantations in Bukit Gantang, Perak — one of the rarest and most productive plantations which bear fruits throughout the year, under the Direct Sales From Farm programme involving 819 farming entrepreneurs.

The agency aims to reach sales of RM5 million in 2019, a higher expectation from the recorded revenue in 2018 which was RM3.26 million.

On a larger context, Malaysia is expected to export about 1,000 tonnes of frozen durian to China each month as agreed between the two countries in August last year. The exports are expected to generate an additional RM500 million to Malaysia’s export earnings.

Despite its reputation, durian is unequivocally the most controversial fruit as it has two groups of audiences — one who would devour it and one who could not stand its taste and smell.

Due to the divisive views, durian has been prohibited in some public places for its odour.

The “No Durian” signs are often seen on the public transportations in Singapore and Thailand, while being banned in most hotels.

A large cargo of durian which was loaded into a Sriwijaya Air headed for Jakarta, Indonesia, also had the flight temporarily grounded after passengers complained about the fruit’s smell reeking throughout the cabin.

According to Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), 8,900 tonnes of fresh and frozen durians were imported into Singapore as of July 2018. In 2017, a total of 14,300 tonnes of durians were imported to the republic.

Comparatively, 14,300 tonnes are equivalent to five million average-sized durians.

Singapore receives most of its durians from Malaysia and some from Thailand. The imports into Singapore peaked in 2013 with 22,900 tonnes of durians getting into the country. Like other South-East Asian countries, Singaporeans are just as enthu- siastic about durians as Malaysians.

They have also found ways to create fine-dining dishes out of the fruit.

Among the favourite delicacies that can be found in Singaporean restaurants are grilled durians, durian dipping sauce for chicken nuggets and durian-based crème brule.

The king of fruits was also mimicked in the architecture of the republic’s performing art centre, the Esplanade.

The building is colloquially known to Singaporeans as “the durians” due to its design — a rounded shape fitted with triangulated sunshade glasses resembling the fruit’s thorny exterior shell.