by BERNAMA/ pic by TMR FILE
BANGKOK – China’s huge appetite for Thai durians remained strong and undiminished by the COVID-19 pandemic as evidenced by the country importing RM2.56 billion worth of durians from Thailand in the first four months of this year.
According to Thailand’s Commerce Ministry, the Southeast Asian country’s durian exports to China from January to April this year grew 78.05 per cent year-on-year.
The export of frozen durian to China during the period also increased to RM127 million from RM94.05 million in the same period last year.
Durian and Mangosteen Exporter Association of Thailand chairman Panuwat Maikaew said the growing demand for Thai durian, both fresh and frozen, remained promising this year due to its remarkable popularity in the Chinese market and the COVID-19 pandemic has failed to break the supply chain.
He said the steady growth in demand for the ‘King of Fruits’ has pushed up the price of exported durian to between RM18 and RM21 per kilogramme (kg) this year from RM11 to RM15 per kg last year.
“We are worried the pandemic could hit durian exports. However, not only does it have little impact, exports even increase,” he told Bernama.
Panuwat said Thailand grew about 80 per cent of the Monthong variety of durian, also known as ‘Golden Pillow’ in Thai due to its thick flesh, creamy with a mild sweet fresh and moderate smell, and 20 per cent of other varieties of durian such as Chanee, Kanyao, Kradum, and Puang Manee.
“Due to stiff competition, durian middleman rushed to place order to export to China. The number of durian middlemen have increased from between 100 and 300 to about 700 last year,” he said.
Office of Agricultural Economic Thailand has projected durian production in the kingdom to hit 1.15 million tonnes this year compared to 1.02 million tonnes last year.
Five provinces – Chantaburi, Chumporn, Rayong, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Yala produced about 766,000 tonnes of durian last year, with Chanthaburi alone produced 339,292 tonnes of durian to become the largest durian-producing province in the kingdom.
Durian farmer from Southern Thailand province of Chumporn, Raveewat Kittisuppamongkol, 38, said he grew the Monthong variety of durian due to its popularity among the Chinese.
He said cultivating the Monthong durian potentially generates more revenue with the tree producing 10 to 20 durian fruits or 40 to 80 kg for the first time after four years and more fruits would be produced after the trees reached 10 years and onwards.
“Thai durians are entering a golden age. The future of the durian business is still bright following the growing demand in China,” he said.
Last year, Thailand produced some 1.02 million tonnes of durian of which 80 per cent were exported and 20 per cent were sold in the local market.
Durian cultivation in Thailand covered 115,957 hectares in 2019 and this is projected to expand to 120,120 hectares this year.