Durians make up 10 percent of all fruit imported in China and many think that this will continue to grow. (Reuters: Edgar Su)
Can a fruit that smells so offensive that whole buildings can be evacuated be the next baby milk formula for Chinese consumers?
Most important points:
- Durian imports to China have risen sharply and are now worth more than $ 1 billion
- Insanely buying Chinese tourists means that local buyers have to pay more for limited fruit
- It is banned on many public transport systems in Southeast Asia because of the infamous smell
The demand for durian, that famous, delicious or smelly fruit – depending on who you ask – has a huge bloom in China.
In April, Chinese consumers snapped 80,000 durians in just 60 seconds at the Alibaba online shopping site as part of a deal between the retailer and Thailand, the world's largest producer of durians.
There is a wide range of durian-flavored products on e-commerce sites such as Alibaba. (Delivered: Alibaba)
A durian exhibition in southern China last year attracted more than 150,000 Chinese buyers who were willing to spend a lot of money – and it does not stop there: there is also ice cream, coffee and lollipops with durian flavor, as well as deep-frozen durian and durian Halloween masks.
Major Western chains in Asia have also noted McDonalds make durian McFlurrys and hotcakes Pizza Hutjes serve durian pizza.
Durian imports an average of 35 percent per year in China according to trade data from the United Nations, and was worth 1.1 billion dollars last year, up from just $ 243 million ten years ago.
Currently, only Thailand can import fresh durians directly into China – due to trade regulations and processing problems around non-fresh durians – but many Chinese consumers look for different types of fruit, such as the highly stimulating Musang King, which is grown in Malaysia and is banned on many public transport systems South East Asia.
Inheritance import restrictions via HK, guided tours
Because of their smell, durians are forbidden in public transport and hotels in some Asian countries. (Matt Brann)
"Durians are best eaten fresh, to attract more Chinese tourists is the best way to bring them here to enjoy the latest durians", said Steel Zhao, China's marketing manager for tourism, earlier this year. the Malaysian National News Agency.
But unlike China, Hong Kong has no restrictions on importing fresh Malaysian durians and has seen some crazy purchases of durian tourists from the Chinese mainland in recent years, local local blogger Sarita Low told the ABC.
Ms. Low said people paid an average of $ US60 ($ 82) for a single fruit and sometimes more if it had been a bad growing season, with some reporting prices in the hundreds of dollars for a single durian of a valued variety.
"All fresh Malaysian durian comes via Hong Kong – logistics, [trade] costs and high real estate prices contribute to higher prices here, "she said.
More recently durian buying and eating tours have become increasingly popular with Chinese tourists who fly to Malaysia especially to buy large quantities of the fruit.
Chinese tourists fly to Malaysia to buy large quantities of the fruit. (Reuters: Athit Perawongmetha)
"I remember that the locals were pretty angry with the durian sellers because busloads of Chinese tourists would descend on a durian booth and consume or buy most durians, allowing sellers to raise prices for what's left, "said Mrs. Low.
Author and durian expert Lindsay Gasik, who wrote The Durian Tourist's Guide to Penang, has seen the impact of Chinese demand firsthand.
"Several of the durian farms that I used to buy, only deliver to China," she told the ABC.
"They can get around twice the price for the same durian they could sell locally if they sell to China."
Durian is extremely divided & # 39; with reports of murders
People have reportedly paid hundreds of dollars for a single durian of a valued variety. (Flickr: Luca Conti)
The durian often evokes a love or hate relationship – some people have literally killed to get the fruit, while at least two typhoons are mentioned.
"It is a delicacy that sows extreme divisions, even in the immediate family," said Mrs. Low.
Ms. Low loves durian because of the unique taste layers and creamy texture, which she says she defeats everything that is made by man.
"Each durian fruit is also unique in its smell and taste, so there is a surprise and great expectation for the next piece that you put in your mouth," she said.
In 2016, a Malaysian durian salesman was allegedly stabbed to death after an argument with a customer who was dissatisfied with the quality of his durians, according to The Straits Times.
Another case related to the murder of durian was reported by the Malaysian local media in 2011, when a woman would have attacked her brother-in-law with a piece of wood after a fight for a doerian.
In Thailand, a wild elephant was so determined to put his trunk on a supply of durians, he smashed the wall of a store room and stole a horde of durians worth thousands of dollars.
Last year in Australia, 500 people were evacuated on the campus of Victoria University in Melbourne after someone left a rotting durian in a locker and a similar incident happened in 2014 in a hospital in Melbourne.
The new palm oil? Farmers opt for controversial fruit
Palm oil plantations are reportedly being torn out to make room for new durian plantations. (Reuters: Athit Perawongmetha)
In Malaysia – the second largest producer of durian after Thailand – farmers have started replacing palm oil plantations with durian, in anticipation of the current ban on fresh imports from Malaysia to China, when the countries conclude a deal later this year.
According to the Malaysian agriculture minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek, durians can yield nine times more than palm oil per hectare and there are huge opportunities for growth in China.
"We have to be proud because people say that in China there are only two things they line up – one when the iPhone X was released and the other one is durian from Malaysia," he told reporters last year.
Gasik said that more people invested in new durian orchards, but warned that the fruit could be difficult to cultivate because it was prone to seasonal variations in yield and price.
"When I first went into durian in 2012, the durian" bubble & # 39; had just started and people told me that there was no money in durian or even their orchards in palm oil processed, "& # 39; she.
"Now people chop up their palm oil orchards and plant them durian."