While some tastebuds reel back from the potent flavor of durian and noses scrunch at its memorable aroma, it’s a fruit that is projected to see a dramatic surge in demand. There’s a whopping 400% annual increase on the horizon, to be precise. The primary driving force behind this newfound fascination? None other than China, the nation that’s taken a surprising liking to what many refer to as ‘the world’s smelliest fruit’,” notes Aris Dacanay, renowned economist at HSBC Bank’s Asean region.
Over the past couple of years, China has emerged as the globe’s major durian importer, shouldering an impressive 91% of the worldwide durian market. The trade value? A cool US$6 billion. Durian, much to the surprise of many, has become somewhat of a hot commodity in China. This is a place where the fruit is not only savored for its unique flavor, but also cherished as a societal token of generosity. Giving someone a durian during engagement ceremonies has become a quintessential gesture of goodwill.
“The durian selling frenzy in China commenced in the dawn of 2017. Often given the royal title of ‘King of Fruits’, it fetches a princely sum of over U$10 per kilogram in China, significantly higher than its average market price in Southeast Asian countries which hovers around U$6/kg,” says Dacanay. Notably, it’s the Asean group that’s reaping the benefits of this durian trend, as they accounted for 90% of the global durian exports in this year of 2022.
Among the Asean conglomerate, Thailand claims the throne as the supreme durian exporter. However, other members of the alliance are no less enthusiastic in their attempts to step up to the challenge and vie for that coveted position.
“It could very well be realistic for other countries to compete effectively in the durian market,” suggests Dacanay. A significant game changer here is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a robust regional free trade agreement that weaves together the economies of the Asean countries, China, South Korea, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. With this pact, participant countries are privy to unbarred and fair access to the Chinese market, fostering an environment that is robust and level for all. This could well be the key to unlocking further potential within the flourishing durian export industry, and we will be watching the space keenly to see how it evolves.