International Symposium on the ‘King of Fruits’


Article contributed by Yacob Ahmad


The Durian, also known as the King of Fruits, is popular among Asians. The large thorny fruit which ‘smells like hell’, however is compensated with the most unique taste, for Asians at least. Most Westerners tend to show a disdain to the smell and taste as written by early explorers and noted by many who have tasted it.  However, this is now changing as it is easily available in markets around the globe. Westerners are also beginning to show interest, and getting ‘comfortable’ with the smell and taste of the fruit.  Recently, there has been increasing interest in cultivating the fruit due to increasing demand especially in the China market.


The main producers of durian are Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Thailand is the biggest producer and exporter of the fruit. In 2014, the areas grown with durian were about 104,308 hectares with an estimated annual yield of 631,631 metric tons. Thailand also exported 378,808 tons valued at 13.428 million baht (estimated 398 million USD) in the same year in the form of fresh, frozen and in the processed form. With increasing popularity of the fruit in the region, even farmers in Australia have begun cultivating the fruit.


In the first ever International Symposium on Durian and other Humid Tropical Fruits held in Chanthaburi, Thailand on 2 to 4 June 2015, the fruit was given its dues with experts from mainly the Asian region, discussing on the various aspects of biodiversity, breeding, production, processing and marketing. The symposium was jointly organised by the Thailand Department of Agriculture and Department of Agriculture Extension, Horticultural Science Society of Thailand, FAO, King Mongkut’s University of Technology, Thonburi, Thailand Research Fund, National Research Council of Thailand, Chanthaburi Province, Thailand and International Society for Horticultural Sciences. Two hundred participants from Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, Australia, USA and Thailand attended the symposium, which was officiated by Dr. Wimol Jantraotai, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Thailand.


There were altogether 31 oral presentations, predominantly featuring the durian, and on other humid tropical fruits, while the poster session had 32 presentations. The keynote address on ‘Diversity and Nutritional Value of Tropical Fruits in relation to Poverty and Malnutrition Worldwide was delivered by Dr. Roderick A Drew, the President of International Society for Horticultural Science.


The biodiversity of the various durian species, common commercial cultivars and promising hybrids in the Asean region were discussed, including the discovery of a potential ‘rainbow’ colored variety. The session on cultural practices and physiology discussed some fundamental aspects of durian physiology relating to flowering temperatures, photosynthetic characteristics in response to light, and effect of paclobutrazol on floral induction. Common postharvest practices in Thailand were highlighted in the postharvest technology session, including codex standards and packaging.  Processing wastes such as durian husks into bio-plates was also discussed. A presentation on the Westerners’ perception of consuming durians, managed to indicate the potential of durian being available to a bigger consumer base.


Participants later visited a GAP certified durian farm, processing and export company (Infinite Fruit Co. Ltd), Thamai Cooperative which is involved in exporting fruits to Japan, Korea and China, and Chanthaburi Horticulture Research Centre. Generally, the symposium was useful in imparting and sharing current information and research conducted on durian. Participants agreed that with the fruit being gradually being accepted internationally and coupled with the increased productivity through better technologies, better postharvest practices and current expanding market in China, the ‘king of fruits’, is definitely heading for a bright outlook.


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