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China looks to Malaysia to satisfy national durian craving as import talks accelerate

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Chinese and Malaysian officials are in talks about opening the former country’s enormous market to exports of the latter’s fresh durians, as appetites grow for the famously pungent tropical fruits.

Chan Foong Hin, Malaysia’s deputy minister of agriculture and food security, said via Facebook on Monday that his department met a Chinese customs delegation in Malaysia on October 5 and signed a six-point statement covering durians.

“The Chinese side agrees to speed up its risk assessment of Malaysian fresh durian, and both sides will cooperate on promoting quarantine inspection work,” the statement read.

Nor Sam Alwi, deputy director general of the Malaysian Department of Agriculture, has expressed hopes for approval next year to coincide with the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations with China, according to Malaysian media reports.

Allowing fresh imports would make Malaysia more competitive with Thailand, which in 2022 shipped 99 per cent of all imported durians – both fresh and frozen – in the US$4 billion Chinese market. The Philippines also has licence to export the fruit, and China began to authorise regular shipments of Vietnamese durian last year.

Shipments of durians from a new country will keep supplies stable in China as demand remains high, said Song Seng Wun, economic adviser at CGS-CIMB Securities in Singapore. Some buy the often pricey fruit to give as gifts for engagements and weddings.

1 million tonnes of durian imports a year in reach as China demand surges

“It’s more a matter of ensuring supply than anything else,” Song said. “It just makes it easier for durian farmers in Malaysia and Chinese importers to have a seamless trade.”

Malaysia’s best known durians are the Musang King variety. Boasting a taste that is both bitter and sweet, the cultivar enjoys enormous popularity among consumers. Chinese enthusiasts have gone so far as to call it the “Hermes of durian”.

“I believe the sky’s the limit,” said Simon Chin, founder of the Malaysian exporter DKing. “After they try Musang King they’ll know the taste and know the quality.” He added he expects China’s “purchasing power” to keep sales brisk.

After more than four years of cultivation, China had its first domestic durian harvest this year, with 50 home-grown tonnes going on sale in June. As durian trees take several years to reach maturity, a sizeable replacement of imports by domestic crops is unlikely to be feasible for the foreseeable future.

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Our reporter had never tried durian, so we sent her to sample everything at a durian buffet

Our reporter had never tried durian, so we sent her to sample everything at a durian buffet

Legalisation of fresh durian exports to China could prompt an expansion of fruit plantations in Malaysia, said Ibrahim Suffian, programme director at the Kuala Lumpur-based polling group Merdeka Centre. Durians now make up a “niche industry” in the country where palm farming is dominant, he said, adding some durian growers have come from China.

It could take seven to eight years for new farms to see their first harvests, he cautioned. “People who are already in it will benefit from Chinese exports, but it takes a long time to start production,” Suffian said.

Malaysia grows more than 300,000 tonnes of durian every year, mostly for domestic consumers, according to the country’s statistics department.

Article was originally published from here

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