Durian, the thorny king of fruits, is beginning to earn big bucks for the country, with last year’s production value topping RM5bil. No wonder more people are venturing into the durian business.
Demand from China since the middle of last year has driven both smallholders and large companies to take a second look at expanding or acquiring more land bank to cultivate this fruit. New players are also emerging.
There are over 200 varieties of this fruit, more than what Thailand has. Apart from the famous and pricey Musang King, the other favourites are IOI, D24, Black Thorn, and Red Prawn.
In China, the Musang King frozen fruit is said to be sold at a price of at least RM300 a kg. For now, only 1% of the population in China has tasted this fruit, indicating a huge potential.
The farm price of Grade A Musang King durian has gone up from RM9 per kg to RM33 per kg last year.
Apart from demand from China, processed durian is gaining popularity in products such as durian pulp, paste, ice cream, chocolates, cakes and snacks. In China, durian is being used to flavour cookies, coffee, crepes and pizza.
No surprise then that durian was the most planted and harvested fruit in Malaysia in 2018, with 73,739.58ha or 38.32% and 47,347.24ha or 35.76% of the total planted and harvested areas respectively, for major fruit crops.
The top three durian planting areas last year were Johor, Pahang and Sarawak.
Apart from durian trees, a total of 30,455.45ha was planted with banana, followed by rambutan trees (16,580.17ha), pineapple (14,046.33ha) and watermelon (10,430.59ha).
In comparison, total oil palm planted areas in Malaysia are about 5.85 million ha, with the largest plantations in Sabah and Sarawak.
Durian cultivation can potentially generate nine times more revenue compared to palm oil on a per hectare basis. It can generate an EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) margin in excess of 50%, says a report.
Durian may be a new fruit for export into China, but the premium pineapple variety, MD2 is also gaining popularity. Besides that, the government is looking at boosting exports of jackfruit, cempedak, star fruit and rambutan.
Despite the demand, the key is to adopt good practices including planting on existing agricultural land rather than clearing native forest and this is to avoid creating a monocrop area.
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