For Thailand, durian has the smell of success: recognizable by its prickly appearance and strong smell, the durian has surpassed rice and rubber in export earnings.
Thai durian has overtaken rice and rubber as Thailand’s top food export, with exports last year estimated at around 187 billion baht (about 5.3 billion euros), compared to 100 billion baht for rice and 90 billion baht for rubber. Center for International Business Studies at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.
75% of world exports
Durian export data by country in 2020 shows that Thailand is the world’s largest durian exporter with a market share of 75.31% of global exports, according to Tridge Intelligence.
In the same year, Hong Kong held 21.23% of the global durian market, followed by exports from Vietnam, which accounted for only 2.64% of the total.
Due to the attractive price of durian, many farmers in the northeastern provinces of Thailand have switched from other crops to durian over the past decade.
The area of land used to grow durian has increased sixfold since 2011. About 80% of farmers in the eastern region of Thailand switched their land from rubber to durian, resulting in a fivefold increase in durian production.
The insatiable appetite of Chinese consumers
The main export market for Thai durians is China: Chinese consumers have an insatiable appetite for durians, especially Musang King, also known as Mao Shan Wang. China spent US$2.89 billion on durian imports in 2020, making it the largest durian importing country in the world, accounting for 79.92% of global imports.
Hong Kong lagged far behind its $628.57 million worth of durian imports in the same year. This represents 17.4% of the imports registered worldwide.
Nothing illustrates China’s durian madness better than the 2020 China-Malaysia Durian Festival, during which 60 tons of Musang King durian (about 300,000 fruits) were sold in less than an hour. Durian sellers in Malaysia have also seen a surge in demand for Hong Kong’s Musang King as online delivery orders have surged.
Transition to e-commerce
With increasing demand from China, e-commerce has become more important in durian exports. Instead of using traditional wholesale markets, many companies now choose to sell durians online through well-known platforms such as Alibaba and eBay or by launching their own online stores.
That being said, successful online sales also require efficient international shipping of durians from Malaysia. The Durian Express initiative aims to achieve just that by helping local durian companies meet overseas demand in Hong Kong and Singapore with 24-hour next day delivery services.