Alibaba’s e-shopping platform Tmall, its sourcing platform Win-Chain, the China Certification and Inspection Group Malaysia (CCIC) and Malaysian durian supplier BEHO Fresh have teamed up in what has been called a ‘strategic cooperation’.
According to Alibaba, “The deal marks a further effort by Alibaba to harness the power of e-commerce and its dynamic ecosystem to contribute to the growth of Malaysia's agricultural exports.”
Beho Fresh’s role will be to provide Win-Chain with whole frozen Musang King durians, which will then be distributed via Tmall and other e-commerce marketplaces in China.
According to Beho Fresh’s website, its durians are traded whole, either fresh or nitrogen-frozen, and it already supplies to the United States, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan and Australia.
Alibaba added that the CCIC, an independent company recognised by the Chinese government’s quality and certification monitoring bodies, will provide traceability inspection services and third-party quality checks and controls so as to ensure the durians meet Chinese quality standards.
China’s cross-border retail e-commerce sales reached some US$78.5bn in 2016, a number which is predicted to pass the US$140bn mark by 2021. According to eMarketer, this is driven by the country’s growing middle class, with a ‘high propensity to shop for foreign brands’.
According to McKinsey, over 40% of global e-commerce trade is now transacted in China, as compared to 1% just 10 years ago.
Malaysia and China’s close relationship over durian
China and Malaysia have had a friendly relationship when it comes to durian, especially over the Musang King variety, and especially in the recent past.
Earlier this year, Malaysia secured a new export deal with China for frozen durians, signed between the Malaysian Agriculture and Agro-based Industry minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub and China’s General Administration of Customs minister Ni Yuefeng in Beijing.
China imports over 250 million tonnes of durian every year, and the Musang King in particular is spearheading the Chinese durian craze with prices going up as high as US$73 per kilogramme. Reports show Chinese customers paying up to US$150 for a whole, frozen Musang King durian.
That said, currently only durians in frozen, chilled or pulp form are allowed to be exported into the Chinese market. Whole, fresh durian has still not obtained market access due to fears of pests or other contaminations coming together with it.
Approval for this could come as early as 2019 though, as Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry deputy secretary-general Mohd Salehhuddin Hassan has described talks with China on the subject as ‘positive’ to Bernama.
“Negotiations with the Chinese government proceeded positively. We have met their enquiries in terms of fruit safety and security. We hope to obtain approval next year,” he said.