China’s appetite for durian has increased global demand for the uniquely pungent tropical fruit by 400 per cent, with Southeast Asian exporters looking to a regional trade deal for help to sell even more, according to investment bank HSBC.
The Chinese market makes up 91 per cent of the world’s demand for durian, with China having imported US$6 billion in the past two years, HSBC said in a report on Monday.
And around 90 per cent of the durians shipped worldwide originate in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) bloc, HSBC added, up from 60 per cent seven years ago.
HSBC calculated the 400 per cent figure based on data collected in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2022.
“Asean’s durian exports have been growing … implying that durian may have – in a very literal sense – launched a thousand ships to sea to trade,” the report said.
“The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership gives everyone freer and equal access to the Chinese market.”
But RCEP alone probably does not explain a 400 per cent growth in demand, said Ding Shuang, chief economist for Greater China and North Asia at Standard Chartered Bank.
Covid-19 containment measures in China last year may have created a low base for comparison, he added.
China imported around four times as many fresh durians last year than in 2017, racking up US$4 billion in revenue, Chinese customs data showed.
Thailand commands 99 per cent of Asean’s durian export market, according to HSBC, although authorities in Vietnam are also in discussion with China.
Malaysia’s agriculture ministry is also seeking approval to export fresh durians to China, according to local media reports in June, with frozen durian already accepted.
Consumers in mainland China and Hong Kong are “willing to pay” for durian from Thailand as they have a longer shelf life compared to other parts of Southeast Asia, said Sam Sin, development director at S&F Produce Group in Hong Kong.
“This upward trend is undoubtedly advantageous for Thai durian growers, as it presents them with unparalleled opportunities to expand their businesses,” Sin said.
“The expanding Chinese market provides a vast consumer base, allowing growers to increase their production and, in turn, their revenue.”