Durian doldrums: Prices for king of fruit up by as much as 40%

Straits Times journalist Fabian Koh doesn't like durian. But never mind that - this fruit stallholder will show him how to pick the best durian. Will Fabian change his mind about the king of fruits?
Mr Steven Shui Poh Sing, owner of Ah Seng Durian at Ghim Moh Market, cracking open a durian for a customer. Durian vendors said business may pick up in the coming weeks - prices are expected to fall slightly as the current season approaches its peak.
Mr Steven Shui Poh Sing, owner of Ah Seng Durian at Ghim Moh Market, cracking open a durian for a customer. Durian vendors said business may pick up in the coming weeks - prices are expected to fall slightly as the current season approaches its peak. Customers can also expect a shorter durian season this year.ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

Prices for the fruit are up by as much as 40% due to smaller harvests from Malaysian orchards hit by adverse weather

Amid dwindling durian supplies, durian lovers will likely have to pay more for a taste of the thorny king of fruit this durian season.

Durian lovers may just raise a stink when they learn that the king of fruit is likely to command a royal ransom this year. Popular durian varieties such as the Mao Shan Wang are currently priced at about $29 per kilogram, compared with about $18 to $20 last year. Mao Shan Wang is also known as Musang King or Civet Cat King.

With the average fruit weighing about 1.5kg, a feast among friends comprising just two Mao Shan Wangs will cost around $87.

A survey of 10 local durian vendors showed that durian prices this year have risen by as much as 40 per cent compared with previous years, with the Mao Shan Wang variety registering the highest increase.

Mr Steven Shui Poh Sing, 59, the owner of Ah Seng Durian at Ghim Moh Market, blamed the price hike on smaller harvests from Malaysian durian plantations.

Mature durian trees require a certain amount of rainfall throughout the year in order to produce quality durian fruit - not too much, and not too little. "The harvest for durians this season is poor, due to poor weather conditions. There was also a short hot weather spell that destroyed many of the durian flowers earlier this year," he added.


  • TOP OF THE DRAW

    MAO SHAN WANG

    Price:$28 to $35 per kg*

    Colour: Bright yellow

    Taste: Bittersweet with a sticky, creamy texture.



    GOLDEN PHOENIX

    Price: $26 to $30 per kg*

    Colour: Pale yellow-white

    Taste: Bitter with a more watery texture and strong pungent smell.



    RED PRAWN

    Price: $13 to $15 per kg*

    Colour: Orangey-red

    Taste: Sticky with a sweet aftertaste.

    *Prices at time of publication

Mr Shui, who has been in the business for more than 30 years, brings in about 10 durian varieties from both Johor and Penang - including the highly sought-after Mao Shan Wang.

But the price hike has proven to be a thorn in the side for some sellers. Madam Linda Ang, 51, of Combat Durian in Balestier Road , said business has dropped 20 to 30 per cent.

Mr Goh Kwee Leng, 66, a durian seller at Durian Mpire by 717 Trading, said the fall in business could also be due to the poorer quality of durians available now.

"My regular customers are used to eating the best, the quality (of durians) now is not as good, so some are not eating them now," said Mr Goh, who has been in business since 1973.

Durian vendors said business may pick up in the coming weeks as prices are expected to fall slightly as the current season approaches its peak.

 
 

Ms Elaine Mao, 32, a manager and durian lover, said: "I won't be buying Mao Shan Wang durians now as the prices are too high. Maybe I'll buy some when the prices are cheaper."

Others, however, were unconcerned about the rising prices. Mr Jacky Tay, 22, a freelancer, said $30 is cheap considering that durians are not in peak season yet. "So I'll still continue to buy them," he said.

Apart from higher prices, customers can expect a shorter durian season this year. The mid-year durian season typically lasts from June to September every year but will likely be shortened to just two months this year.

"Usually, the durian season starts in June. But this year, there is a low supply of durians and we had a small break in June. The number of durians available might shrink in July," said Madam Ang.

But it is not all bad news for durian lovers. Those who are still looking to satisfy their craving can turn to less popular durian varieties such as Ganhai or D13, where the prices have fallen slightly from about $15 per kilogram to about $13 per kilogram since the start of the season.

Durian vendors are also looking to bring in more durian varieties from Penang such as the popular Red Prawn and Hor Lor to make up for the shortfall in the current popular varieties.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 09, 2017, with the headline 'Durian doldrums'. Print Edition | Subscribe