Malaysia is cashing in on Chinese durian craze

Malaysia has been giddy to cash in on China's durian-craze ever since the Chinese General Administration of Customs opened its doors for imports of frozen whole durian fruit on May 30.

    2019/06/05

NSFW    KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia is tapping into the Chinese market as it opens its doors to frozen durian imports, reports Bloomberg.

Durian. People who haven't tried it have most certainly heard of it, or at least smelled its famously pungent odor. To some, this strange fruit smells like used diapers, but for Malaysia, they carry the smell of dollar bills.

According to Bloomberg, Malaysia has been giddy to cash in on China's durian-craze ever since the Chinese General Administration of Customs opened its doors for imports of frozen whole durian fruit on May 30.

Turns out, Chinese people love durian. They're mixing it with ice cream, cakes, and even pizza. Bloomberg reports China imports 300,000 metric tons of durian annually, 90 percent of which comes from Thailand. Malaysia wants a piece of that durian pie.

Lucky for them, according to NPR, China has taken a liking to the Musang King, a durian variety produced by Malaysia. Channel News Asia reports that 300 grams of Musan King sells for roughly $48 on Chinese online shopping site Tmall.

Malaysian celebrity chef, Zamzani Abdul Wahab, told NPR that Musang King is quote, "the best because the color is golden yellow, the flesh is sweet with a slight bitterness at the end that makes it the most special one, the most special breed of all." Sounds good to us.

But are Thai durian's that different from Malaysian ones? According to Malaysia's deputy minister of agriculture, Sim Tze Tzin, definitely. He tells NPR that their durians are all about quality, not quantity. His analogy for it was, quote, "It's just like Thais are selling beer, we are selling champagne. Good quality champagne." Thai durian producers might need some aloe vera for that burn.

Malaysian newspaper, The Star, reports that 67 farms have registered for durian production. On paper, this all sounds good, but environmentalists are concerned about what could happen if the demand for durian continues to increase.

Malaysia has already witnessed the environmental destruction that comes from the demand for palm oil and rubber and experts now fear that this too can be a side effect of durian production.

Forest researcher, Lim Tek Win, told NPR he believes greed could drive people to develop durian plantations in natural forest reserves.

Lim warned that if there are no clear policies when it comes to where durian plantations are allowed, then biodiversity and loss of habitat could be a real concern in the years to come.
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