PETALING JAYA: A two-day Malaysian Durian Festival was held at a hotel in Beijing to take advantage of the Belt and Road Forum taking place there.
One of the visitors who dropped by was Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is also attending the forum, the South China Morning Post reported.
The festival, organised by several companies affiliated with Malaysian-listed PLS Plantations Berhad, was intended to publicise Malaysian durians.
Malaysia is expected to be allowed to export whole, frozen durians to China in a few months. Last August, Malaysia and China had struck a deal to allow the export of whole, frozen durians from Malaysia into China.
At present, only frozen pulp is imported by China.
The daily reported that only one in every 100 durians now sold in China comes from Malaysia, with the rest mainly from Thailand.
Wan Mun-hoe, managing director of the Malaysian company Newleaf Plantation Berhad, said Malaysian durians are now more epensive than those from Thailand but the rich Chinese were demanding better-quality durians.
He said durians were now only available in major Chinese cities.
“Looking forward, Malaysia is going to develop large-scale durian plantations. We hope we can cope with the demand of the Chinese market” Wan said.
His company owns 20ha planted with durians. In the next three years, the company will have another 400ha of land leased to it to grow durians, Wan said.
Newleaf Plantation Berhad has developed an “intelligent farming system” to keep track of all its durian trees.
Wan said in 2012, Malaysian durians were sold to wholesalers at RM9 per kg but now the price had gone up to RM30 a kg.
Eric Chan, managing director of Dulai Fruits, said Thailand had been exporting durians to China for about 20 years and they have much more plantation land planted with the fruit.
The daily said China’s durian imports increased by 15% in 2017 to about 350,000 tonnes. Roughly 40% of its durian supply is from Thailand,
Charles Chen, director of Krillo Kakaw, a chocolate maker in Kuala Lumpur, said its durian chocolates retail for upwards of RM50. It has targeted RM40-50 million in sales per year.