Thorny problems: Malaysia expects lower durian yield, urges sellers to digitize

Durian fruits on a plate. Photo: Ronnarong Thanuthattaphong / 123RF
Durian fruits on a plate. Photo: Ronnarong Thanuthattaphong / 123RF

As COVID-19 continues to ravage Malaysia’s economy, durian sellers facing lower yields and sales due to the pandemic are turning to e-commerce platforms to help boost revenue.

The Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority, or Fama, said yesterday it anticipated a lower yield of below 300,000 metric tonnes due to the high rainfall season and manpower restrictions caused by strict COVID-19 regulations. Durian season usually falls between April and August.

Sellers in most parts of Malaysia have also been banned from selling durians on the streets due to the coronavirus. However, the organization urged durian sellers to move their businesses online in a bid to boost sales and continue to meet demand. 

“Most durian sellers foresee demand to remain strong domestically and internationally especially from the Singaporean and Chinese markets with China’s economy beginning to recover,’ Fama said. “Malaysians may not be able to enjoy it by the roadside this year but consumption will remain strong in line with their love for durian.”

E-commerce platforms like Shopee, Lazada, iPrice, and even Instagram have seen an increase of roughly 3,500 durian sellers, with some offering deliveries to Singapore

The prices of durians sold online vary from RM30 (US$6) to RM125 per packet weighing one kilogram. 

Shopee also noted “durian” among its trending search keywords by shoppers. Some were looking for the fruit to be delivered to their doorsteps. 

Most popular durian types searched on the platform include the D24, Musang King, and Red Prawn. The D24 is known for its bittersweet taste and creamy texture, Musang King for its sweet and creamy, marshmallow-like taste, and the Red Prawn for its fruity flavor with a sweet aftertaste. 

Durian sellers in Penang were yesterday allowed to reopen their street stalls for takeaways. However, buyers are not allowed to request for the fruits to be cut open before making a purchase.

Leow E Shuen, business manager of Shan Cheng Durian Penang, noted that freshness of the durians is a priority.

“We collect the durians from the farm in the morning, open and repack them into boxes, and vacuum pack them before they go out for delivery on the same day,” he told Bernama. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused customers to shy away from visiting his durian farm in Balik Pulau, Penang, he added. 

Durian shops in other parts of Malaysia can open for business in markets, offering takeaways. Malaysia is the second-largest durian exporter in the world behind Thailand. 

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