PETALING JAYA: China’s obsession for durian attests to the vast export potential for Malaysian durian farmers over the next few years and the huge demand from the Chinese market is the reason the durian industry is immune from the market crash caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, said Sunway University Professor of Economics Dr Yeah Kim Leng.

“Despite the income shock from the prolonged pandemic, premium quality foods still command a premium and in the case of world-renowned Malaysian durian varieties, such as Musang King, demand far exceeds supply, thereby keeping prices high,” Yeah told SunBiz.

Although global and domestic economic growth is dented by the Omicron wave, he said the durian industry has adapted to digital marketing and sales channels and the proliferation of logistics firms and home delivery channels would be instrumental to the growth of the durian market.

“As long as the industry does not suffer long periods of lockdown, which appear unlikely given the country’s near full vaccination rate against Covid-19, most durian farms are better geared for a new normal that will involve a considerable shift to online and home delivery channels. Meanwhile, tourism-related durian demand will continue to languish depending on the reopening of the international borders,” he said.

Last month, home-grown modern agriculture management company Durian Capital Bhd launched its Durian Capital Investment Scheme, the first durian investment scheme licensed under the Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia (SSM) Interest Scheme Act 2016.

Yeah said such investment schemes provided opportunities for investors from all walks of life to tap into the tremendous durian farming opportunities.

“It enables (durian plantations businesses) an avenue to raise risk capital for developing high-quality durian plantations that are increasingly capital intensive with the application of advanced farming techniques and smart technologies.

“The success of such investment schemes also attests to the attractiveness of the industry even though the risks have increased in tandem with rising costs of land, labour, and various inputs including management know-how,” he said.

Integrated durian specialist DSR Taiko Bhd is slated to launch its D.MasKing flagship store in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday and will hold a press conference with the Malaysian Investment Development Authority on bringing durian specialty products to the international markets. DSR will also sign an agreement with Sirim Tech Venture to set industry standards on Musang King durians and develop Musang King Integrated Tracking Systems for enhanced product traceability.

Durian expert and Durian Academy Sdn Bhd founder and adviser Lim Chin Khee said the wholesale price for Grade A Musang King has been steadily growing at RM5 per kg since 2016 due to high demand from China, reaching RM45 per kg this year.

“Next year, we expect the price to increase to RM50 per kg. We export whole durian, frozen pulps, and durian paste due to the ever-growing popularity of durian in China. Also, the demand for durian paste has been growing steadily owing to Chinese consumers’ demand for durian-filled desserts such as ice cream, cake, cookies.

“People who can afford to buy durian in China are the middle class and above. It is a social status in China. It takes at least eight years for a durian tree to start to drop its ripened fruits. Thus, local durian supply cannot meet the demand of the Chinese market,” Lim told SunBiz.

He is conducting a study on precision farming using Internet of Things technology for durian farming with experts and researchers from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman and property developer Wawasan Group. “We want to introduce a parameter for the local durian farming system with the precision farming method to improve durian farming’s efficiency, productivity and quality.”

Lim said the consultation request on durian planting that his company received has doubled compared to 2020.

“Most of the enquiries came from construction and trading companies. They have allocated some amount to invest in durian plantations. Also, many professionals nearing retirement are interested in investing in durian farming,” he said.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industries, durian exports achieved a 107% increase over the last five years, surging to RM144.7 million (US$34.7 million) in 2020 from RM69.9 million in 2016.

Source: The Sun Daily