AS THE durian season nears its tail end, there are still plenty of the fruit being sold.
However, these are merely the kampung durians and not the Musang Kings, Black Thorns or other varieties that durian lovers are looking for.
The popular types remain scarce due to a shortage of yield from orchards, leaving plenty of the normal durians to be sold at stalls and shops.
A durian seller who declined to be named, said the amount of kampung durian left unsold at his stall is not unexpected.
“There is actually a shortage of durian, including the kampung types, making these more expensive this year.
“Some would just rather not buy the normal ones as they cost almost as much as a D24 or D101,” he said.
“But there are also durian lovers who are willing to spend a little bit more to get the tastier types,” he added.
The seller, in his 30s, said people always first look to buy the popular and tastier types.
“I was only able to get my hand on two D24 from my supplier and these were snapped up immediately.
“For those wanting to satisfy their cravings only grudgingly turn to the kampung durians when they cannot get the popular ones,” he said.
The Musang King and the Black Thorn durian varieties are currently being sold at between RM60 and RM82 per kilo.
The D101 and D24 varieties are being sold at between RM25 and RM28 per kilo while kampung durians are being sold at about RM10 per kilo.
Personal assistant Joey Loh said the price does weigh on a lot of people’s minds when it comes to buying durian.
“I have come across imported durian from Thailand being sold at between RM35 and 45 per kilo while the local ones are sold between RM10 and RM25.
“For me, I think it is still acceptable,” Loh said.
“But if the difference between a kampung durian and a D24 is just a few ringgit, I am sure people would rather spend it on the latter,” she added.
Loh also feels that not many ordinary people are willing to spend hundreds of ringgit on Musang King or Black Thorn.
“I know there are people willing to spend between RM800 and RM900 on a bunch of Black Thorns but how many would do so?”
“The fruit is really living up to its nickname now, only a king can afford it,” she said.
“There is just no control on the prices anymore,” she added.
Alarm installer CL Tan said he missed the days when he could get some 20 kampung durians for only RM60.
“That was about 10 years ago. I used buy it several times a week.
“The prices nowadays are just crazy.
“I honestly am not willing to pay for any durian that is more than RM20 per kilo,” he said.
“I really hope the sellers can go back to selling the fruit by quantity rather than by weight,” he added.
Tan said he feels that the high prices are being caused by demand from abroad.
“I feel that durian is being aggresively marketed overseas, with the demand for the fruit also pushing up the prices.
“A lot are being exported, fetching good prices too,” he said, adding that he once saw a Facebook posting of one Musang King sold in Hong Kong at HK$1,150 (RM627).
“As more are being sent to overseas markets, that leaves us with a limited amount of the good ones,” he added.
Durian orchard owner Tham San, 72, said the prices of durian this year are higher than in previous years.
He said there is a general shortage and the erratic rainy weather also does not help.
“The blooming period is usually between January and February, while the harvesting of fruit will be done between June and July.
“However, the rain has caused quite a disruption to our production. My orchard has been severely affected,” he said.
“The lower fruit production has pushed up the prices,” Tham added.
He said he had heard that durian sold in Pahang was more expensive than those sold in Perak.
“Durian in Pahang, particularly from Bentong, is famous and they have more orchards than we do in Perak. They are also exporting the fruit to China and Singapore,” he said.
“Durian from Perak is usually for local consumption,” he added.
Tham said he feels the export of the fruit does not have any effect on prices locally.
“It is totally unrelated. Fruit that is exported will have its own pricings and is totally different from those sold locally,” he said.
“We have our own pricing for local markets,” he added.
A durian grower, who only want to be known as Cni Chong (sic), said the cultivation of the fruit is complex and not as easy as just using fertiliser.
“Durian is one of the most sensitive fruits to cultivate.
“It requires hot weather to flower and to produce good fruits,” he said, adding that it takes about five months for fruits to be ready for harvesting.
“The weather is unpredictable so growers really need to be careful how much they water the trees, as too much also affects quality.”
“It is all about timing, and unfortunately for us this year, the heavy rainfall late last year really affected our yield. This is the primary cause of the higher prices this year,” he added.
Chong also said that some durian is being sold at high prices due to the demand.
“There are also people willing to fork out more to get the fruit.
“I have one customer who is also willing to pay almost double the price for it so he can treat his friends and clients from Singapore,” he said.
“Durian is always in demand. Willing buyer, willing seller,” he added.
Interviewed at the launch of the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority’s (Fama) Fruit, Flower and Food Fiesta 2017 in the Rural Transformation Centre Gopeng late last month, Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman said demand for durian has been rising, but the production level cannot cope with the rise.
He encouraged farmers to plant more durian trees to satisfy the growing demand.
“There is a shortage, whether it is local or abroad and the lack of production has caused the price hike.
“The ministry does not control the price of durian and we leave it to the farmers and traders to decide on the prices,” he said, adding that grants and incentives are offered to farmers to plant durian trees.
“It is not fair to tell these people to reduce the price when supply is low,” he said.
“A more rational way to tackle the issue is to encourage farmers to plant more durian instead of asking them to reduce the price,” he added.