According to Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industries (MoA) Deputy Minister Sim Tze Tzin, this was in line with the country’s ‘Durian Strategy’.
“[The Durian Strategy will] draw in tourists from China, Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia and other neighbouring countries to eat durians in Malaysia,” Sim said at a media conference in Parliament earlier this month.
“[Under this], agro-tourism, or more specifically durio-tourism, will attract tourists to Malaysia to do more than just shopping but also visit durian farms and stay in durian orchard homestays.”
MoA will be collaborating with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac) to offer various tourism packages to foreigners based on the durian theme.
“[One of these would be] in conjunction with Merdeka month, and later we will also target the Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign,” added Sim.
China is expected to provide a large bulk of these tourists – United Nations data showed that durian exports to China have increased at an average of 35% per year to reach US$4.48bn in 2017 as compared to US$243mn 10 years prior.
MoA expects Malaysian durian exports to China to exceed US$2.93mn by 2020, and the country also successfully signed an export deal with China for frozen whole-fruit durians in August last year.
In accordance with this, representatives from the General Administration of Customs of the People's Republic of China (GACC) will soon be starting inspections at durian orchards and processing plants in Malaysia.
“The GACC is expected to conduct a first round of inspections from April 21 to 27," said Sim.
China-based Tourism Malaysia marketing manager Steel Zhao told Bernama that Musang King topped tour itineraries for Chinese durian lovers, saying: “To attract more Chinese durian tourists, the best way is to bring them here to enjoy the freshest durians.”
Currently only durians in frozen, chilled or pulp form are allowed to be exported into China due to fears of pests or other contaminants in whole, fresh durian.
Adding to the appeal of durian in China is the surge of durian-flavoured or durian-containing products that have mushroomed along with the country’s durian craze.
According to durian specialty company Durian Harvests, durian products typically fall into four key market segments: Raw Durian Fruit, Desserts, Snacks and Beverages.
PepsiCo’s Lays was one of the companies hopping onto the bandwagon, launching durian-flavoured potato chips last year as a limited-edition item, even conceptualising a ‘mascot’ named Little Durian Monster as the face of the product.
The China Mengniu Dairy Company uses the D24 variety of durian in its flavoured yoghurt, and also produces durian-flavoured ice cream.
Thai beverage company Sappe produced a limited-edition durian-flavoured beverage named Rotal Thai Durian back in 2017. The beverage was released exclusively for the Chinese market and launched at SIAL China.
Various food service outlets have also produced a wide variety of durian-containing offerings, from KFC’s durian egg tarts to Pizza Hut’s durian pizzas and McDonald’s durian McFlurry.
Hurdles to clear before exporting frozen durians
Sim added that frozen durian exports would only proceed after local facilities are up to par in terms of compliance with GACC protocols.
According to The Star, these would include the procurement of a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certificate from the Health Ministry, the use of using integrated pest management, and the freezing of durians between -80° to -110°C for at least one hour.
“So far 67 farms have registered [with MoA] and 18 processing plants have registered with the [Health Ministry]. However, only five of the processing plants have gotten the GMP,” said Sim.
He also reassured Malaysians that no impact was expected on durian prices within the country, saying: “The Malaysian public shouldn’t be too worried about durians being exported to China.
“The current 67 farms registered only makes up some 464 hectares of 72,464 hectares of durian plantation land in Malaysia.”