PENANG: Dubbed the durian lovers' paradise, the town of Balik Pulau is now a hive of activity with the King of Fruits selling for as low as 30 sen each due to a bumper harvest.
Lorries and motorcycles loaded with freshly plucked durians from nearby orchards make up the typical morning scene in this sleepy hollow about 30km from George Town which boasts some of the best fruits in the country.
Since the start of the durian season last month, 200 stalls have sprung up and busloads of tourists have been stopping by.
Durian seller Ismail Abbas, 60, said he had sold 20,000 non-graded durians for 30 sen each since the peak season began two weeks ago.
Sometimes, I have to sell four fruits for RM1, especially on Mondays, as most customers would have bought them over the weekend, he said at his stall yesterday.
Ismail, who has been in the business for 15 years, said this year's harvest was better than last year's.
He obtained his supplies from orchards in Titi Teras, Sungai Burung, Bukit Batu Hitam, Pondok Upeh and Titi Serong.
He also sold graded durians such as Ang Hare (Red Prawn), Tangkai Panjang (Long Stem), D2, D11 and 604.
Retired army sergeant Embau Aris, 62, and his wife, Halijah Aman, who came in a tour bus from Seremban, said Penang durians were creamier than those in their hometown.It's too bad we can't take back a few as we are travelling in a bus, Embau said.
Another customer, Shaari Abdullah, 54, bought about 300 durians which filled up his car to the brim before he headed for Sungai Petani.
I know I can get quality durians at a rock-bottom price from Ismails stall. I am taking the durians to sell in Sungai Petani where there are fewer competitors, he added.
Universiti Sains Malaysia's School of Biological Sciences lecturer Assoc Prof Dr Liew Kon Wui attributed this years bumper harvest to the favourable weather.
During the fruit's floral induction and pollination period from January to March, a dry spell is needed. If it rains, the flowers will be washed away, he said.
State Agriculture Department officer Mohd Omar Mohd Saibu said the weather had played a major part in this seasons good harvest although the best season so far was in 2001.
He added that this year's season was expected to conclude by the end of this month or the beginning of the next.
In Johor, the glut had caused the price of kampung durians to drop to about 20 sen per kilo while cloned species such as D24 or 101 were selling for RM1.50 per kilo.
State Agriculture Department director Sanusi Jamari said Muar has been producing about 4,000 tonnes of durians every day since the season started last month and more fruits were expected to come from other districts soon.
The markets just cannot absorb the number of durians being produced at the moment and we have to find new approaches to help market the fruits, he said.
A durian trader at Taman Jaya here said although the prices were low, it was difficult to sell the durians as they could be bought almost everywhere in Johor Baru.
The trader, known only as Ah Tee, said he charged customers between RM5 and RM10 for every 10 durians.
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