The rise of Hainan durian a wake-up call for Thai growers and exporters

- The Nation/ANN

BANGKOK: Thai durian exporters to China have been warned not to be complacent as China has started cultivating “Hainan durian”, priced at 300 baht for half a kg, with significant growth potential.

The Thailand Office of Trade Promotion in Xiamen, China, said that China was able to produce Hainan durian, which is considered a major success for the Chinese durian industry.

Thai exporters should seek ways to improve the quality and freshness of Thai durians to maintain their high standing in both the Chinese and global markets, the office advised.

According to a report from China News Service, China has been growing durians extensively in areas like Hainan, Sanya, and Yucai.

The durians were growing well, reaching the size of volleyballs.

The first batch from Hainan is expected to hit the market by late June.

This year, approximately 500 trees have started yielding the fruit, the report said.

Hainan durian has reportedly been under cultivation for four years, and this year marks the first season of yields. A four-year-old durian tree can produce up to 19 fruit, each weighing around 2kg.

The harvesting season for Hainan durian spans from June to August, with peak harvest expected in July.

According to some estimates, durian will be cultivated in Hainan on over 6,600 hectares of land within the next 3-5 years.

However, durian cultivation on the island faces challenges such as limited production capacity and unpredictable weather, including typhoons.

The fragile stems of the durian tree make it difficult to withstand strong winds.

Even though it has been successfully cultivated in Hainan province, the terrain there is still not ideal for durian.

Typically, durians are large, perennial fruit trees that thrive in temperatures between 25-30 degrees Celsius, making them best suited for “tropical climate” like those found in the Asean region.

As of May 2024, Hainan durian has started entering the Chinese market about a month earlier than expected, with a selling price of approximately 60 yuan per jin (1 jin equals 0.5kg).

Due to limited cultivation areas in China, the supply remains low, keeping prices high (Thai durians retail at around 30-35 yuan per jin).

"When China is able to produce Hainan durian, it would mark another achievement for the Chinese durian industry.

"However, it would not significantly impact the import of Thai durians due to limited production.

"Nevertheless, Thailand cannot afford to be complacent, as the Thai durian market may face competition from the emerging Hainan durian, which is gaining recognition," the office said.

However, based on its taste, this seems to be of less concern. The “taste of Chinese durian” is reportedly quite mild, with a faint aroma.

When it comes to texture, it almost lacks any creaminess.

The flesh of the durian sometimes evokes more of a sensation of unripe bananas, and other tasters were similarly unimpressed.

“There’s almost no flavour at all” was one of the harsh criticisms, with the consensus among tasters being that Chinese durian is “dry, hard, and bland”.

But the office has suggested that Thailand continue to develop high-quality, fresh durians to maintain its dominance in the Chinese and global markets.

Although Hainan durian is becoming an alternative for Chinese consumers, Thai durians can still hold a competitive edge if they maintain their quality and consumer trust in terms of both taste and quality.

The opportunity for Thai durian imports to remain in demand in China and worldwide persists, provided that Thai producers continue to adapt and improve according to consumer needs.

According to data from Global Trade Atlas, China currently imports fresh durians from three Southeast Asian countries: Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

Between January and April 2024, China imported the highest quantity of fresh durians from Thailand, totalling 121,398.253 tons, valued at US$716.69 million, accounting for 65.65% of market share, although this represents a 48.71% decline.

Thailand has yielded market share mainly to Vietnam.

Vietnam is the second-largest supplier, with 79,186.190 tons, valued at $369.21 million, holding 33.82% of market share, but up 82.93%.

The Philippines ranks third, supplying 1,778.123 tons, valued at $5.807,841 million, with a market share of 0.53% and a growth rate of $474.5 million. - The Nation/ANN

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Thailand , Hainan , durian , wake-up call , growers , exporters


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