Malaysian durian continue to be a hit in China, driven by strong demand and consumption there for the “King of Fruits”.
Commercial Counsellor at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Malaysia, Shi Ziming, said the interest from Chinese consumers for the fruit has not waned although the supply chain for Malaysian durian was affected early 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with demand quickly picking up once the pandemic in the republic was successfully controlled.
She said this was because durian from Malaysia is a favourite in China.
“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 Fruits, known for its distinctive smell and thorn-covered rind, is evident in China’s total import of 600,000 tonnes of durian worth US$1.7bil (RM7.24bil) in 2019.
However, durian from Malaysia only accounts for a very small percentage of the market share in China.
As of now, durian from Malaysia is 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 pulp and paste from Malaysia, which amounted to US$41mil (RM175mil) in 2018.
The approval for the transport of whole durian starting mid-2019 led to a surge in the export of the fruit, amounting to 7,700 tonnes (including pulp and paste) in 2019 worth some US$67mil (RM286mil).
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the off-season period, Malaysia’s export of durian to China in the first quarter of 2020 was equivalent to the previous one – US$22mil (RM94mil), 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 durian from Malaysia increased tenfold towards the end of March following promotions by Chinese e-commerce fresh fruit platform FreshHema, and hit RMB4.35mil (RM2.62mil) on takeaway food platform Meituan Waimai on May 20.
The president of the 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 be able to meet the demand from China’s market.
“Like any other sectors, we are also affected by the Covid-19 (pandemic). But now, the situation is slowly improving; and with the new season having 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 exports durian 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 exports premium variants 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 were badly affected by the pandemic, he remained optimistic that the situation will recover soon.
He said the Covid-19 outbreak early this year and the movement control order (MCO) to contain it had caused his durian business to drop by 50 per cent, while revenue had been slashed from RM5mil monthly previously to RM2.5mil now.
Lim has been exporting durian pulp and paste to China since 2010.
“Production had been adversely affected, but hopefully the situation will recover from now.
“I also hope that the 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 said she hoped that Malaysian suppliers and exporters can launch more market promotion activities so that Malaysian durian 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 the Malaysian durian’s fame continues to expand in China, the potential is endless, ” Shi said. – Bernama