Flora of Indonesia

Handlers defy hazards

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 July, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 July, 1996, 12:00am

The air cargo game can be a risky business.

Forget high-security documents and valuable cargo. For a few months every year cargo handlers move massive quantities of one of the few natural enemies of the proboscis - the dreaded durian fruit.

Hong Kong folk, no strangers to a variety of curious aromas that pervade their daily lives, perhaps not surprisingly have developed somewhat of an obsession for the fruit which looks almost as uninviting as it smells.

For one airline brave enough to take on the durian, gallant flight crews and handlers work frenetically during peak season (April through May) to drop the nasal destroyers on unsuspecting Hong Kong civilians.

'There is usually around six weeks where we are loading 747s, which carry up to 100 tonnes, full of the fruit,' manager of Cathay Pacific's cargo and marketing, Ray Jewell, said.

'With durian it is essential that the handling is quick and we have to ensure the cargo and pallets are protected in plastic and kept away from heat.

'Whenever they're flown on passenger aircraft, we take extra care not to annoy any passengers.' Mr Jewell, although appreciative of the work provided freighting the fruit, hardly minced words when it came to describing it.

'It is a smelly fruit,' he said, with the bluntness of one who has plane-loads of experience in these matters.

'Once you have smelled it, you wouldn't fail to recognise it again.

'I have tried it but . . . put it this way, I wouldn't go out of my way to try it again. I have known Westerners that like it, but I think it's very much an acquired taste.' For some there is nothing quite like the smell, for others nothing quite like the taste,- of durian in the morning.