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Chinese consumers snap up 80,000 durians after Alibaba signs 3 billion yuan food deal with Thai government

The flash sale of the fruit was part of a joint initiative to promote Thailand’s local products via the internet.

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 April, 2018, 12:33pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 April, 2018, 1:48am

Chinese consumers ordered 80,000 durians the minute a new online promotion went live as part of a Chinese-Thai initiative to help sell the Southeast Asian country’s local products via the internet.  

In a deal struck Thursday by Chinese and Thai officials, the two governments will work with e-commerce giant Alibaba Group to drive the development of Thailand’s digital economy. Under the agreement, agencies of the Thai government and business units of Alibaba will work together in a number of areas, including e-commerce, digital logistics, tourism and training.

The 80,000 Monthong durians, weighing a combined 200,000 kilograms, were snapped up by Chinese consumers on Alibaba’s Tmall platform within 60 seconds of them going online, after the Hangzhou-based e-commerce operator closed a 3 billion yuan (US$478 million), three-year deal on the fruit’s sales with Thailand government, according to statement issued by the company. 

“China is on its way to becoming the world’s largest consumer, driven by rising income and a growing middle class of 300 million. There is no better time than now for trade-oriented countries to seize this opportunity to export to China as the country continues to open its doors wider for global trade,” said Jack Ma, executive chairman and co-founder of Alibaba, the parent company of the South China Morning Post.

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Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations for Chinese travellers, with its appeal growing in recent years thanks to the 2013 Chinese comedy film Lost in Thailand, which was the first local movie to break through the 1 billion yuan mark at the box office. In February, 1.2 million Chinese travelled to Thailand, up 40 per cent from the same month last year, according to data from the Thai tourism authority. 

The durians will be sold via Alibaba’s online and offline retail channels, including its business-to-consumer platform Tmall, its Hema cashless supermarkets, as well as the 450 RT-Mart hypermarkets owned by Sun Art Retail Group, which received US$2.9 billion in funding from Alibaba last November.

On Tmall, an order for 4.5 to 5 kilograms of Monthongs goes for 199 yuan (US$32), inclusive of delivery and taxes. The Tmall website claims more than 2 million durians have been sold on the platform so far, including those before the current deal was in place. In Southeast Asia durians are known as the King of Fruit, though some people liken its pungent smell to stinky socks. 

“Not just durians, Thailand is also famous for bananas and crops such like rice,” Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said at the launch of the initiative. 

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A Thai rice shop was also officially launched on Tmall on Thursday.

Alibaba said Chinese consumers bought more than 7.7 trillion yuan worth of imported goods from its online channels in 2017, with food accounting for a large part of the total. 

Apart from the Thai food deals, Alibaba’s online travel platform Fliggy is working with the Tourism Authority of Thailand on improving the Chinese travel experience in the country.