KUALA LUMPUR June 10 – Malaysian durians continue to be a hit in China, driven by strong demands and consumption from the Chinese for the King of Fruit.
Commercial Counsellor at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Malaysia, Shi Ziming, said the interest from the Chinese consumers for the fruit did not wane although supply chain for Malaysian durians was affected early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and demand quickly picked up once the pandemic in the republic was successfully controlled.
She said this was because durians from Malaysia is a favourite fruit in China, and is often sought after by buyers as special gifts for their friends and families.
“The texture and taste of the Malaysian durian is second to none in the world. It is often bought as gifts for families and friends,” said Shi in an email interview with Bernama.
The Chinese’s insatiable fondness for the King of Fruit, known for its distinctive smell and thorn-covered rind, is evident in China’s total import of 600,000 tonnes of durian worth US$1.7 billion (RM7.24 billion; US$1 = RM4.26) in 2019.
However, the import of durian from Malaysia only account for a very small percentage of the market share in China.
As of now, durians from Malaysia are only available in several major cities in China and via online platforms.
According to the Embassy’s statistics, China imported 3,200 tonnes of frozen durian pulps and pastes from Malaysia – which amounted to US$41 million in 2018.
The approval for the transport of whole durians starting mid-2019 has led to a surge in the export of the fruit, amounting to 7,700 tonnes (including pulps and pastes) in 2019 worth some US$67 million.
Despite the pandemic and the off-season period, Malaysia’s export of durians to China in the first quarter of 2020 was equivalent to the previous one – US$22 million, said Shi, adding that “this showed that Malaysia’s durian export to China was not affected during this off-season (period)”.
Shi also said sales in China of durians from Malaysia increased tenfold towards the end of March following promotions by Chinese e-commerce fresh fruit platform FreshHema, and hit RMB4.35 million (RM2.62 million) on takeaway food platform Meituan Waimai on May 20.
President of Malaysia Food Farmers Association (Youth Chapter), Francis Hong, said durian export from Malaysia to China has resumed to almost 80 per cent, and supply – with the arrival of the new season (May to July or August) – is expected to increase and is able to meet the demands from China’s market.
“Like any other sectors, we are also affected by the COVID-19. But now, the situation is slowly improving; and with the new season just started, we are hopeful for a good harvest, but this (production) of course is very much depending on the weather as well,” he told Bernama.
Hong, who also export durians to China, said Malaysia’s durian market share in China is only about 10 per cent – mainly sold in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Guangdong and Beijing.
Malaysia only export premium variants of durians to China – including the famed Musang King, 101, and D24.
On average, a kilogramme of Musang King can fetch up to RMB200-RMB300 (RM120-RM180), Hong said.
Another entrepreneur, Fred Lim, said although his durian production and sales was badly affected by the pandemic, he remained optimistic and that the situation will recover soon.
He said the COVID-19 outbreak early this year and the Movement Control Order (MCO) had caused his durian business to drop by 50 per cent, while revenue has been slashed from RM5 million monthly previously to RM2.5 million now.
Lim has been exporting durian pulps and pastes to China since 2010.
“Production had been adversely affected, but hopefully the situation will recover from now on.
“I also hope that the MITI (International Trade and Industry Ministry) and Agriculture and Food Industries Ministry will organise trade missions to China soon so we can participate and tap into the bigger market there,” he said.
Meanwhile, Shi hoped Malaysian suppliers and exporters can launch more market promotion activites so that Malaysian durians can be savoured by more people in China.
She also encouraged Malaysian entrepreneurs to introduce more varieties of durian-based food products – such as pastries – to the Chinese market.
“As Malaysian durian’s fame continues to expand in China, the potential is endless,” Shi said.