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Tuesday May 27, 2008

Durian orchard owner tackles prickly price issue

BALIK PULAU: Despite a hefty increase in overall durian prices, one orchard owner is prepared to face the wrath of his competitors by sticking to the old prices – and even throwing in some “extras” to win customers over.

Bao Sheng Durian Farm co-owner T.S. Chang said his marketing strategy is to focus on branding, improving customer service, coming up with innovative tourism products like farm stays, durian buffets and informative tours of the estate and offering special “buy one, free one” packages.

Quality surveyor: Chang demonstrating how to ‘smell’ a good durian.

“If we charge too much, people will eat less or even forgo eating because unlike basic necessities like rice or cooking oil, some consider durians an indulgence.

“If you buy Bao Sheng durians, we throw in some extras like a smaller durian or rambutan. We keep our customers happy and build a loyal customer base simultaneously,” he said, acknowledging that other farm owners may accuse him of “spoiling the market”.

“Despite the bad season, we may end up with unsold fruits at the end of the season if we take advantage of the wet weather to raise our prices indiscriminately. No one wins in a price war,” said Chang, whose 2.4ha estate is in Sungai Pinang.

With Penang orchards experiencing a lean harvest this season, durian lovers can expect to pay 10% to 20% more for the “King of Fruits” compared to last year.

Pondok Upeh orchard owner Tham Soon Seong said for kampung durians, the increase was between RM2 and RM3.

“For high breeds like the Ang Heh (Red Prawn) – the increase should be between RM3 and RM5 per fruit,” he said, adding that Ang Heh weighing a kilo or more could cost as much as RM80 in the market.

“Consumers must also bear in mind that prices in villages and town areas may differ with the latter being pricier,” he said.

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