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    Durian Fans Sniff a Price Drop as China Readies Its Own Harvest

    With the domestic durian harvest still far short of meeting annual consumption requirements, experts caution that an impact on prices will take time.

    After at least three years of cultivation, China will harvest its first crop of domestically grown durian this month in the southern Hainan province. While this has left consumers hopeful for more affordable prices, experts emphasize that the impact on the market may not be immediate. 

    Much sought after across the country, the durian, renowned for its creamy flavor and abundant nutrients, has consistently topped the list of imported tropical fruits in recent years. In 2022 alone, China imported 825,000 tonnes of durian — worth $4.03 billion in total — according to data from the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export.

    With its popularity soaring, the price of the tropical fruit has experienced significant fluctuations this year, rocketing to over 40 yuan ($5.60) per kilogram in mid-May before dropping to around 20 yuan in June.

    Wang Haibo, an agricultural expert from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, told Sixth Tone that more than 30,000 mu (4,942 acres) of durian trees at a plantation in Sanya in the southern Hainan province is expected to yield 50 tonnes of the tropical fruit this year. 

    The yield, however, is miniscule compared with China’s annual consumption, which currently stands at 1 million tonnes, mainly imported from Southeast Asian countries including Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam.  

    The smaller yield is also attributed to the immaturity of the durian trees, which usually take six to seven years to mature, Feng Xuejie, a researcher at the Hainan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, told local media. 

    He expects the durian plantation area to expand to 100,000 mu in three to five years. Domestic prices are expected to stabilize between 10 yuan and 20 yuan only after the overall plantation area surpasses 200,000-300,000 mu, Feng added.

    The durians harvested this month will be sold to locals, tourists, and other potential consumers within the province. 

    After carrying out research for the project for more than eight years, Wang Haibo said the team has worked to tailor the seeds to better suit local conditions. The team has also helped develop smaller seeds and improve the crop’s cold tolerance and red pulp, he added.

    In addition, Wang’s team has encouraged local farmers to grow durian trees as companion plants to betel nut trees, offering valuable shade to durian seedlings. In the long term, durian cultivation is expected to replace betel nuts, which have been proved to be addictive. 

    Tropical fruits, such as durian, cherries, and blueberries, have become a popular choice for Chinese consumers looking to spend more on quality products. 

    But last month, the rising price of durian had Chinese netizens taking matters into their own hands by launching a spirited campaign on the popular microblogging site Weibo. To voice their discontent, many called for a boycott of not only the pricier fresh durians but also a range of durian-flavored products, spanning from ice creams to cakes. 

    As of Tuesday, a Weibo hashtag titled “Relieved that no one’s buying durian” gained more than 330 million views. 

    One Weibo user supporting the boycott applauded the fact that consumers stopped buying durian at a supermarket even when the price dropped to 29.9 yuan. “Well done ... We should let durian suppliers know that the consumers should have the final say on the pricing. Let the durian rot on their shelves,” he wrote

    Editor: Apurva. 

    (Header image: Domestically grown durians at a plantation in Hainan province, May 2023. From @南海网 on Weibo)