Durians could potentially become a major commodity export for Malaysia if developed systematically and on a large scale like rubber and oil palm.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia had successfully developed rubber, originally brought in from South America, until eventually becoming the world’s largest rubber producers.

Malaysia, he said, also applied the same methods to emulate the success with oil palm, which originates from West Africa.

“Durians, on the other hand, are native to Malaysia. But we have never considered developing durian farms in a systematic way as we did with rubber and oil palm.

“I feel it is time that we produce durians on a large scale and systematic manner. In China alone, there are 1.4 billion people who enjoy the fruit,” he said.

Dr Mahathir, who is on a five-day official visit to China from Friday, was speaking at a luncheon with Malaysian corporate figures here on Sunday.

On Monday, the prime minister his China counterpart Li Keqiang are expected to witness the signing of several memoranda of understanding (MoU), one of which involves enabling the export of fresh Musang King to China.

Currently, China is only importing frozen Musang King from Malaysia.

Dr Mahathir also opined that a trade war between the United States and China could potentially open up opportunities for Malaysia.

He said American companies are still keen on investing in China, given the huge market potential.

“However, if they are unable to do so, they will seek other locations. American companies could be drawn to invest in Malaysia instead,” he said.

Touching on the One Belt, One Road initiative spearheaded by China, Dr Mahathir said what is important to Malaysia is the freedom to trade using sea routes.

He said in the past, European ships traveling to China would have to pass the Melaka Straits, but there were no countries staking a claim (to the waters) back then.

However, he said, China is now stating that the South China Sea is under its purview.

“To me, it’s not important for as long as we can use the sea routes.

“As far as I know, China has no plans to block or inspect ships which use the route.

“This means that Malaysia can still trade using sea routes which are important compared to overland routes,” he said.