In China’s second largest online sales event, the sales of Sudanese durian in Malaysia surpassed ice cream and peaches.
Malaysian durians topped the list of fruit and vegetable pre-sales at a large retail festival in China, showing their spicy and delicious pull.
According to local media citing data from the e-commerce giant, the best-selling variety on JD.com’s 618 festival is the Sudanese durian from Pahang, which is the second largest shopping event in China after Alibaba’s Double Eleven. Sales even surpassed ice cream and peaches.
The pulp is creamy and has a strong aroma, which is very popular in China. According to United Nations data, the import volume of fresh durians quadrupled last year compared with 2017, reaching 2.3 billion U.S. dollars, and surpassed cherries to become the country’s largest imported fruit in 2019.
Although “DurioTourism”-the place where Chinese tourists visit Malaysian farms-is currently suspended due to travel restrictions, durian diplomacy is still ongoing. MAPC Sdn Bhd Bhd. is Malaysia’s largest durian supplier. About 90% of its fruit is exported to China. In the past year, it has set up seven centers to promote Musang King varieties in second- and third-tier cities in China.
Sam Tan, the company’s executive director and chairman of the Malaysian Durian Exporters Association, said that another 15 will be added this year to attract more consumers through free samples. “Less than 10% of Chinese people have eaten Malaysian durian,” he said. Tan said that as more and more farmers join the industry, our supply is expected to increase by at least 50% every year.
Unlike Thai growers who pick durians from trees at 85% maturity to extend their storage period, Malaysian farmers usually wait for the fruits to mature and fall to the ground. This prevents them from entering the Chinese fresh durian market currently dominated by Thailand.
Malaysia used to ship durians to China only in the form of pulp and jam, but received approval to export frozen fruits in 2019. Take high-quality varieties such as Sudan and Musang King as examples. Fully mature fruits are known for their quality and are sought after by lovers who regard them as “designer durians”.
Khor Yu Leng, regional economist at Segi Enam Advisors, a boutique consulting firm, said that the Chinese market has become very important for durian farmers, especially those in the central part of Peninsular Malaysia. She said Malaysia may now have a 15% to 25% share of the Chinese frozen market, although fresh fruits still account for about 95% of China’s sales.
“It has been our tradition to harvest durians when they fall since the 1950s,” said Wilson Chang, a second-generation durian farmer in Pahang. “Our main concern is to ensure quality and taste. The demand for our durian has far exceeded our supply.”