Lawmaker wants durian discount card for Penangites

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GEORGE TOWN: A state lawmaker has proposed a durian discount programme for Penangites as top-notch varieties such as Musang King and Ochee now go for over RM100 per kg.

R S N Rayer (DAP-Seri Delima) said thanks to Malaysia’s promotion of the king of fruits in China and other places, Penang’s famed durians from Balik Pulau were now priced beyond the means of most locals.

Where durians once cost less than RM50 per kg, he said, they now cost over RM100.

Worse, he added, most of the higher grade durians from Penang had been exported to other places.

He said the state should step in and introduce a discount card for Penangites only.

“As Penangites, we must be given a chance to savour the best fruits from our orchards. Isn’t it better to give discounts for locals, such as through the I Love Penang card?”

Speaking during the question-and-answer session at the state assembly this morning, he said he blamed the spike in durian prices on the Barisan Nasional (BN) federal government.

His comment earned him a rebuke from the opposition bench, with leader Jahara Hamid (BN-Telok Ayer Tawar) calling him a “joker”.

A brief argument ensued, with Rayer challenging Jahara to repeat her remark on the microphone. However, the dispute was soon settled by Speaker Law Choo Kiang.

The issue of durian prices came up when state agriculture committee chairman Dr Afif Bahardin (PKR-Seberang Jaya) was answering a written question on matters relating to the fruit.

Afif said durian prices were a matter of supply and demand, and that good prices could be found if people looked in the right places.

He said based on his experience, a Musang King or Ochee durian could cost RM105 on the island, but RM68 in lesser-known places on the mainland.

He added that demand for the durian would go up as Prime Minister Najib Razak was promoting the fruit in China.

“It is the nature of business. If there is demand, prices will go up. We need to educate consumers on where to get the best durians.

“Durians are a luxury. Premium brands (varieties) such as Musang King and Ang Eh, especially. We need to find ways to increase supply. Locals will not buy it if it is too expensive.”

Najib had reportedly said that the mainland Chinese appetite for durians was now insatiable, with consumers there willing to pay more than RM130 per kg.

The New Straits Times quoted him as saying that durians had become Malaysia’s “caviar”.

“It tastes like heaven, smells like hell,” he added.