Over the years the demand for durian has been exceptionally high, especially in China where Thai durians are always in demand. But the Covid outbreak led to many restrictions on import of goods into mainland China, and durian farmers are facing the heat of these policies.
The Nation Thailand spoke to Sanchai Puranachaikere, president of the Thai Fresh Fruit Traders and Exporters Association, on the problems arising from China’s zero-Covid policy.
“We still have no clue in which direction we should go because China has a zero-Covid policy. Which means, there can be no traces of Covid infection on the durian at all. In reality, it’s impossible because zero Covid means not ignoring even dead vestiges of the virus,” says Sanchai.
“Due to China’s strict Covid restrictions on imports, we are facing problems. Thai goods or goods from any other country imported into China will have to be tested for Covid.
“The testing process cannot be hurried, it takes time. Some Customs offices can only check 50 containers out of some 200 containers. But those 200 containers aren’t only from Thailand. So the Customs officials might be able to check 200 containers. But they may have up to 500 containers. So the containers that can’t make it now become a part of 1,000 containers in the queue.”
These underlying issues are likely to peak in May and the beginning of June, in just around 45 days, when popular Thai fruits such as durian and mangosteen are ripe. This might increase the number of containers to about 700-800.
But if strict Covid restrictions in China are not resolved, the burden might be too hard to bear for Thai exporters, he said.
Sanchai added: “The problem with fruit prices is when it can’t be exported, the fruit becomes ripe and people can’t buy it. So the question is which direction do we go? If there is a delay in the beginning, we can encourage Thai people to consume more of these fruits, or we can process it into products.
“However, if there’s huge supply we don’t know how the problem can be resolved if the Covid issue in China is not solved. Some 60-70 per cent of Thai fruit is exported to China, while 20-25 per cent are eaten by Thais and no more than 10 per cent are exported to neighbouring countries.”
Despite the obstacles, Thai exporters in Chantaburi province are still finding a way to be Covid-free. They’ve incorporated Good Manufacturing Practice Plus (GMP+) guidelines in Chanthaburi, working with government officials and the public health sector to help create bubbles and collective measures to prevent Covid. They are hoping that these measures could help ease the policies in importing Thai fruits into mainland China.
But will China ease its zero-Covid policy in May? Because if it doesn’t, that would mean 60-70 per cent of Thai durians would be left waiting at Customs in mainland China, leaving them ripe and maybe inedible, Sanchai said.
THE NATION (THAILAND)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK