Flora of Indonesia

The king of fruit falls on tough times in Malaysia

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 June, 2004, 12:00am

It is a nightmare for farmers but a bonanza for consumers. A bumper harvest of durian in Malaysia has caused a collapse in the price in the pungent king of fruit which is loved across the region.

The fruit is being sold in Malaysian markets for just 30 Malaysian cents a kilogramme, against a high few years ago of M$12 (HK$24.63). The price crash has put the fruit within reach of even the poorest consumers.

Even the varieties favoured by the wealthy, such as Ang Hare or Red Prawn, which once fetched M$35 a kilogramme, are now being bought by the common people.

But government officials said thousands of farmers faced financial ruin because of the durian glut, caused by over-cultivation and ideal, dry weather in February when the flowers pollinated.

The price crash has sparked a debate on how best to overcome the 'durian crisis'.

Farmers said they want to replant their durian orchards with rubber or sugar cane that fetch higher prices.

'I am undecided whether to switch or wait for the price to improve next year,' said durian farmer Timothy Chew. 'I will go bankrupt if prices remain at this level.'

Some farmers are leaving the durians to drop and rot on the ground while others are giving them free to loyal customers.

Night markets and roadside stalls are heaped with thousands of unsold durians.

Naturally grown local durian has a short June to September harvest season. The fruit falls after it ripens and is best when eaten within the day thus making it unsuitable for export.

The government is advising farmers to switch to export varieties that are bulky, disease-resistant, take longer to ripen and fetch higher prices overseas.