The Musang King durian is set to become Malaysia’s next major export as the country rushes to develop thousands of hectares to cash in on unprecedented demand for the fruit from China. According to The Sun, once planted in family orchards and small-scale farms, the durian is attracting investments like never before. Even property tycoons and companies in palm oil are making forays into the durian business.
The government is encouraging large-scale farming of durian, counting on a 50 per cent jump in exports by 2030.
“The durian industry is transforming from local to global, large-scale farming due to the great demand from China,” said Paul Martin, director of sales for Durian Harvests
“Before the boom, a durian farm in Malaysia would be a leisure farm. Now they are hundreds of acres and bigger, and many more will come.”
Durian may be banned in some airports, public transport and hotels in Southeast Asia for its pungent smell, but the Chinese are huge fans. Durian-flavoured foods sold in China include pizza, butter, salad dressing and milk.
“At first, I also hated durians because I thought they have a weird smell,” said Helen Li, 26, eating at a shop specialising in durian pizza in Shanghai, where nearly every customer ordered the 60 yuan (RM35) dish during a lunch hour rush.
“But when you taste it, it’s really quite delicious. I think those who hate durian are scared by its smell. But once you try it, I think their opinion will change.”
At another Shanghai restaurant selling durian chicken hotpot ― a type of sizzling broth ― for 148 yuan (RM89), owner Chen Weihao said the store could sell 20kg to 25 kg of imported Thai durian every month.
Chinese pay top dollar for the “musang king” variety because of its creamy texture and bitter-sweet taste. The prices for “musang king” have nearly quadrupled in the last five years.
China’s durian imports rose 15 per cent last year to nearly 350,000 tonnes worth US$510 million (RM2.14 billion), according to the United Nations’ trade database..
Malaysia accounted for less than 1 per cent, but expects sales to China to jump to 22,061 tonnes by 2030 from this year’s likely 14,600 tonnes, as trade is widened to include whole fruit from the current restriction to durian pulp and paste.
Lim said palm oil giant IOI Corp and property-to-resorts conglomerate Berjaya Corp have approached him about making ventures into durian farming.
Felda said the agricultural ministry began planting durian on its land this year.
Durian Harvests is on target to plant over 10,000 new Musang King trees in the next two years. “We founded the company because we see potential in the industry, the primary target being China,” said Mr. Paul Martin.
“Planting durians is not just a hobby today as durians are considered as ‘gold’ in the agriculture industry,” the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry said in an e-mail.
Malaysia’s durian plantations covered 72,000ha last year but the area under cultivation is growing, the department said, and in some areas plantations growing palm oil are switching to durian because it is seen as more lucrative.
The durian is so pungent that you can’t bring it on planes, public transport or into hotels across Southeast Asia – but Malaysia believes it has struck spiky, stinky gold with the Chinese market, encouraging agricultural and digital development as the fruit goes “from local to global.”
According to Reuters, Malaysia is allocating thousands of hectares for the cultivation of musang king durian, transforming palm oil farms into plots of land for the “world’s smelliest fruit” as investment rushes in, following a surge in demand for the fruit from China.
Meanwhile, the durian trade is set to move into the digital sphere, after Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s shopping platform Tmall signed a memorandum of understanding with Malaysia’s BEHO Fresh last week.
The deal will see BEHO Fresh sell frozen Mao Shan Wang or musang king durian – one of the most sought-after varieties of the fruit – to Chinese consumers on Tmall, with China Certification Inspection Group Malaysia acting as a third-party group to ensure quality control.
Durian Harvests is expecting a 50 percent jump in durian exports by 2030, with the country aiming to compete with Thailand as China’s main source of the fruit.
In 2017, China’s imports of durian grew by 15 percent, reaching 350,000 tons, or a value of 510 million U.S. dollars, according to United Nations’ data. Thailand is currently the biggest producer and exporter of durian in the world and accounted for 40 percent of China’s imports.
Despite being featured in the “Disgusting Food Museum” in Malmo, Sweden last month, the durian has surged in popularity in China, with products on sale ranging from durian ice cream to durian pizza.
Only one percent of China’s durian harvests imports came from Malaysia, with trade currently restricted to only durian pulp and paste. That is all set to change this year when Kuala Lumpur begins to export the entire fruit, with authorities anticipating musang king durian exports to China of 22,061 tons by 2030.
Malaysia currently has 72,000 hectares of durian plantations, with a source from the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) telling Reuters “planting durians is not just a hobby today as durians are considered ‘gold’ in the agriculture industry.”
Lim Chin Khee, a musang king durian industry consultant, told Reuters that the industry “is transforming from local to global, large-scale farming due to the great demand from China.”
According to Lim, major Malaysian palm oil producers have approached him with regards to cultivating durian. Earlier this year, the MOA began planting durian on the land of Felda, a state-owned palm oil company.
Malaysian palm oil prices hit a 21-month low earlier this week, amid ongoing criticism of the crop’s role in climate change and deforestation.
However, the World Wildlife Fund has also warned that Malaysia’s push for large-scale durian farming could have a “devastating impact” on the critically endangered Malayan tiger.
China’s Durian fascination continues to permeate in China, with food brand Lay’s most recently joining the fray with their Durian-flavored potato chips.
The snack food company introduced the limited edition item last month with the name “Little Durian Monster (小怪兽榴莲味),” characterized by a cartoon-like face printed over the spiky Southeast Asian delicacy.
The potato chip brand now forms part of the crowd of fast food producers that are using Durian in their menu. Pizza Hut currently has Durian pizzas on offer, while KFC used to sell durian egg tarts. McDonald’s has a Durian ice cream in their Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong outlets.
The new Lay’s flavors can be found on Tmall at ¥99 for two 125-gram bags of Durian, or at convenience stores around town.
Plantations International is delighted to announce the establishment of MK DURIAN HARVESTS SDN BHD (COMPANY. NO.: 1287972-K) a company incorporated in Malaysia under Companies Act 1965. MK DURIAN HARVESTS SDN BHD (“Durian Harvests”) is an associated company of Plantations International specializing in providing Musang King Durian plantation management and other Durian related services.
Durian Harvests’ mission is to become the leading provider and operator of Durian plantations globally – from plantation development and management to end product manufacturing. This includes producing Durian in raw form and processing it into a variety of end products including foods products such as ice cream, snacks and pastries; and beverages such as coffee, tea and milk. Durian Harvests is specialized in the Musang King Durian species, one of the world’s most expensive and in-demand Durian varieties.
Durian Harvests has already completed Phase 1 of its multi-pronged strategy by securing land and planting 1,500 Musang King Durian Trees at its plantation in Johor, Malaysia. Phase 2 is expected to commence Q3 of 2019 which will see a further 4,000 durian trees planted, which will include further expansion and the creation of a Durian visitor and education centre.
Durian is regarded by many people in Southeast Asia as “The King of Fruits”. Considered a delicacy across Asia, its appeal has been growing enormously with new Durian based products continuously being developed. Major global companies such as Nestle, McDonalds, F&N and Pizza Hut have all released Durian based products in an effort to capture this growing consumer product segment. With the establishment of Durian Harvests, Plantations International will be at the forefront of this ever-expanding market and ideally positioned to service the needs of China’s underdeveloped, underexposed and rapidly growing Durian market.
About Plantations International
Plantations International is a multinational plantation management company whose specialty is in providing sustainable agribusiness services for its clients. From the pre-conceptual planning stages to harvesting and marketing the final products, Plantations International strives to go the extra mile to exceed its clients’ expectations. We put teamwork, innovation and our passion for creating “ethical & sustainable capital” at the heart of everything we do.
For further information, please contact:
Mr. Marvin Lee
Director of Communications
Plantations International Limited
The market in China for Malaysian durian is now worth over USD 50 million according to the Malaysian consul general for Shanghai. This figure,during an event in Shanghai last month, is apparently an estimate rather than an official trade statistic. Nevertheless, even if the actual number is a fraction of that, it would still be an impressive showing for a durian product whose market in China was nonexistent a decade ago.
Domestic production of Durian in China is negligible and, presently, all legitimately imported fresh Durian on the market comes from Thailand, which is the only country with approved import protocols in place.
But many connoisseurs of the pungent durian fruit with a custardy pulp believe Malaysian durian have a richer flavor. Unfortunately, many of the most prized Malaysian varieties are difficult to ripen off the the tree (unlike Thai varieties) and spoil quickly after being harvested. And, in any case, fresh durian from Malaysia do not have phytosanitary approval for import into China (though Consul General Tan noted that Malaysia is working on obtaining fresh durian access).
Durian Harvests and other Malaysian durian producers and exporters have gotten around this problem by flash freezing the pulp of the fruit at -30°C for half an hour and then storing and transporting at -18°C. They claim that through this process the fruit maintains the bulk of its flavor and texture once thawed.
According to Durian Harvests, Malaysia and China signed export protocols for frozen durian pulp in 2008 and Malaysia received official access approval from in China in 2011. Since then exports have grown briskly. Musang King and D24 are two of the most popular varieties in the China market.
Frozen Malaysian durian is available in China both as whole frozen durian pulp and as a puree. While the former is popular with end consumers and can be consumed just like fresh durian, the latter has become a hot item with confectioners, restaurateurs and other food processors. Durian flavored products than can be found in China include custard tarts, pizza, mooncakes, ice cream and a wide variety of other dessert items.
Durian Harvests reported that it first starting importing frozen Malaysian durian in 2010. After 2013 it saw consistent sales growth of 30% per year, and this year expects to import 300 tons of Malaysian durian. Even with all the growth in recent years, Royal Durian believes the market has plenty of room to grow—noting that most growth in recent years has come from southern China, with demand in China’s north just beginning to heat up.
Known as the “king of fruits”, Durian is something of luxury product in China. As such, the price of durian reflects its status—high. Hence, many durian lovers’ cravings go unsatisfied. Entering June, durian has reached its peak season. A month ago, the retail price of durian was about 80 Yuan (USD 11.76) per kg. The price has dropped by more than half, to below 40 Yuan (USD 5.88) per kg. On e-commerce platforms, the sales price is between 12-14 Yuan (USD 1.76-2.06) per kg, arguably the lowest price in history. Abundant harvest in main durian growing areas is responsible for this price drop.
Durian varieties in Chinese markets, such as the “Monthong” and “Jialun”, are supplied primarily from Thailand. As Thai durians are currently in season, large numbers of Thai durians are entering the Chinese market. Increased supply has pushed prices down. The supplies of other varieties of seasonal fruits just entering Chinese markets have also helped suppress the price of imported durian. Durian prices are expected to undergo a slight decline for more than four months. After August, when the durian season nears its end, prices are expected to stop falling.
Most durian in China is imported. Export countries include Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Thailand is China’s largest source of durian imports and is the only country that has obtained import access for fresh durian. Malaysia’s durian exports to China are frozen. Vietnamese durian enters China via small-scale border trading. Since 2010, China’s durian imports have increased rapidly. Fresh durian imports achieved 172,000 tons in 2010, which was valued at USD 149 million. Imports in 2016 reached 292,000 tons, amounting to USD 693 million. In seven years, durian imports grew by 69.7% and the value of goods increased by 365%.
The price of Thai durian has grown from about 20 baht (4 Yuan) per kg to 200 baht (40 Yuan) following China’s increased demand. This has brought huge economic benefits to durian farmers in Thailand. The Monthong is the most famous variety of durian in Thailand. They are usually picked from trees and transported to domestic markets before full maturity. Peak season for Monthong durian is between May and August. The Jialun, which only matures in March, is very tasty and has a very brief selling period.
The period of import growth between 2010 and 2013 is worth noting with imports reaching 322,000 tons in 2013—the highest in history. After 2013, imports began to decline slowly. Nevertheless, the value of imports from 2010 to 2016 kept growing. The unit price of durian was $866 per ton in 2010, $1,687 per ton in 2013, and up to $2,371 per ton in 2016. To some extent, rising prices reflects durian’s supply and demand. Prior to 2013, there was an abundant supply of durian on the international market and growing demand within China. In the years to follow, rising demand in Chinese markets created shortages of durian in international markets. As a result, the price of durian imports grew rapidly.