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Thai Monthong faces Malaysia’s ‘King’ in battle for China’s durian market

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Last year, durian was China’s top fruit import with a total value of $1.6 billion (up 47 per cent), surpassing fresh cherries at $1.4 billion for the first time. UNSPLASH

Thai Monthong faces Malaysia’s ‘King’ in battle for China’s durian market

A fruit war has broken out in China, where Malaysia’s Musang King is battling with Thailand’s Monthong to conquer the increasingly lucrative durian market.

The Royal Thai Consulate-General in Nanning, China, said Kuala Lumpur had stepped up its game earlier this month, bombarding Guangxi region with over 1,000 tonnes of Musang King durian for the “Durian Malaysia 2020” event.

Malaysia is exploiting “new normal” marketing channels, both online and offline, to tempt Chinese consumers with free samples and durian priced as low as one yuan ($0.15).

As a result, Malaysian durians are fast becoming popular in China, with October’s promotion netting sales of 340,000 durians worth over 70 million yuan.

“Durian Malaysia 2020” also gives Malaysian entrepreneurs the chance to test Chinese tastes for processed products, including durian French fries, durian beverages, coffee, tofu drinks, liquor, mooncakes and ice cream.

Thailand has always been the largest exporter of fresh durian to China, where the biggest markets are Guangxi and Guangdong province.

However, Monthong’s status as the durian king in China is now being threatened by Musang King, which Chinese consumers have dubbed “Maoshan Wang” and the “Hermes of durian”.

Over the past five years, the retail price of Musang King durian has risen 300 per cent after China began importing whole frozen durian from Malaysia.

The price of Malaysian durian shot up from 60-75 baht ($1.93-$2.41) per kg last year to 225-300 baht this year, with premium varieties such as Musang King, Ochee and Sultan sold out.

The Malaysian government has urged farmers to expand durian cultivation, forecasting that by 2030 export volume will increase 50 per cent and Musang King production more than double.

Malaysia plans to increase its market share of frozen durian exported to China from 50 per cent to 75 per cent in the near future.

Durian are sold in China via online marketplaces such as the T-Mall website.

Si Hao, T-Mall’s operations manager for Food, Vegetable, Fruit and Cool Business Group, said most durian traders on T-Mall sell Monthong – which makes up more than 80 per cent of the Chinese market – and Chanee durian.

However, Malaysian durian entered the fast-expanding online market by using nitrogen-freezing technology that extends the fruit’s expiry date from five days to 18 months and overcomes seasonal restrictions.

Last year, durian was China’s top fruit import with a total value of $1.6 billion (up 47 per cent), surpassing fresh cherries at $1.4 billion for the first time.

China currently allows durian shipments from Thailand and Malaysia, but Vietnam and the Philippines are now negotiating to gain access to China’s durian market.

THE NATION (THAILAND)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK