Many people around the world, especially in Asia, consider the durian “the king of all fruits”, although the spiky fruit isn’t exactly the most obvious candidate for being elected as the most popular fruit.
While its flavor and creamy texture has made it very popular throughout Southeast Asia and China, its strong odor also has gained it many detractors and many hotels in Thailand ban durians because of its notorious smell.
Most Bangkok taxis also display a sign on their windows to warn commuters against carrying durian.
Thailand accounts for 75% of durian’s global exports
In 2020, durian export by country data shows Thailand as the largest durian exporter. The country was responsible for a whopping 75.31% of global exports, which corresponded to a US$2.08B export value, according to data by Tridge Intelligence.
Thai durian has outranked rice and para rubber as Thailand’s top export performer, with export volume last year estimated at about 187 billion baht, compared to 100 billion baht for rice exports and 90 billion baht for rubber, according to the Centre for International Trade Studies at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, as reported by ThaiPBS channel.
Due to the attractive price of durian, many farmers in Thailand’s north-eastern provinces have migrated from other crops to durian in the past ten years, with land used for durian cultivation increasing six fold since 2011. About 80% of farmers in Thailand’s eastern region have cleared their land of rubber trees and now grow durian instead, resulting in a fivefold increase in durian output.
China’s huge appetite for durian is driving the market
China has a huge appetite for durians, especially the Musang King variety, also known as Mao Shan Wang. The country spent US$2.89B on durian imports in 2020. This made the nation the number one consumer of durians worldwide, accounting for 79.92% of global imports.
Hong Kong followed far behind with durian imports worth US$628.57M for the same year. This was 17.4% of imports recorded worldwide. Taiwan was next with 0.9% of global imports, which amounted to US$32.45M.
The shift towards e-commerce
As durian entrepreneurs scrambled to find new buyers during the Covid-19 restrictions, e-commerce started to play a more important role in how businesses are run. Instead of using traditional wholesale markets, many companies are now opting to sell durian online through established platforms like Alibaba and eBay, or by launching online stores of their own.
This gives businesses access to more potential customers than ever before, even allowing them to reach customers outside their country. That being said, successful online sales also require efficient international shipping of durians from Malaysia. The Durian Express initiative by DHL Express Malaysia aims to help local durian businesses fulfil overseas demand in Hong Kong and Singapore with next-day delivery services in under 24 hours.
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