PHOTO: Durian traders are becoming more reliant on China’s appetite for the world’s smelliest fruit. SOURCE: Free Malaysia Today

SOURCE: Free Malaysia Today

A long lockdown has slowed domestic demand for durians and left traders more reliant on China’s appetite for the world’s smelliest fruit.

Fans love the “king of fruits” for its bittersweet flavour and creamy texture.

A first lockdown in Malaysia did not do too much damage to demand but a serious Covid-19 resurgence has prompted authorities to reimpose curbs for a longer period, hitting the economy again and hammering the durian industry.

With the roadside stalls where people usually eat the fruits largely empty of customers, sales have plummeted.

“Compared to last year, the local sales are not as good,” Eric Chan, a trader and managing director of Dulai Fruits Enterprise, told AFP.

On the farm here, some of the precious fruits are caught in nets stretched out under trees to ensure they don’t suffer any damage.

Many are destined for China, where the virus emerged but which has largely tamed its outbreak and is once again recording economic growth.

“If there are no exports, or when there is no stock for the export, it will cause the whole industry to collapse,” said Top Fruits managing director Tan Sue Sian.

The trade in durians has exploded over the past decade, largely driven by China’s growing appetite, with prices of the once cheap fruit selling for RM60 (USD 14.85) or more a kilo for certain types.

The fruit was once exported to China only as pulp and paste but in 2019 officials there allowed the shipment of frozen whole fruits, in a further boost to the industry.

Durians can be found at all times of the year, though the fruit has bumper harvests at certain times.

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