Durian is dearer amid Malaysia drought

Madam Ang together with her father at their durian stall in Balestier Road. While prices have increased, she says customers will still buy the fruit if they "crave for it". Dry weather in Malaysia and Thailand has decreased durian harvests, and the p
Madam Ang together with her father at their durian stall in Balestier Road. While prices have increased, she says customers will still buy the fruit if they "crave for it". Dry weather in Malaysia and Thailand has decreased durian harvests, and the peak season for the fruit is expected to be delayed to the end of this month.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Dry weather has hit harvest and prices are up by more than $10 per kg but demand still high

A drought in Malaysia has led to a spike in durian prices, with some sellers here charging over $10 a kilogram more than they were a year ago.

June and July usually form the peak season for the "king of fruits" but the dry weather has decimated crops, and peak season is now expected to be delayed until the end of this month.

"We have plantations in Johor and Pahang where there has been a decrease in harvest by more than half," said Mr Alvin Teo, 30, owner of Fruits Top 1 Department Store.

He is selling 1kg of Mao Shan Wang for $27, up from $16 last year. Despite the price increase, he still sells out his stock every day.

Mr Teo hopes that supply will return to peak level and that prices will return to normal, but added: "We have to see the bumper harvest this year first."

QUALITY COUNTS

We will buy regardless of the price. We are really more concerned about the quality of the fruit.

MADAM LINDA YEO, an administrator, who says her family loves durians and she is willing to pay the extra dollars if the taste is good.

Mr Alun Zhou, owner of 101 Fruits, said there was also a dry spell in March and April.

"It takes 90 to 120 days for one cycle of harvest. With no water, even if there is sunshine, the land will be dry and not fertile," he said

According to Mr Zhou, who has been in the business for 40 years, local durian sellers face competition as their suppliers also cater to other markets in the region.

He said his regular customers now buy smaller amounts, just to have a taste of the fruit.

Prices at Combat Durian in Balestier Road are the highest they have been in five years.

Owner Linda Ang, who is in her early 50s, said: "Usually the bumper crop is in July. But Malaysia had the drought, so the harvesting is delayed."

She now sells Mao Shan Wang at $28 per kg. It was $18 to $20 per kg this time last year. "Some customers are disappointed, while some others don't mind. They crave for it, they pay for it."

While there are alternative sources such as Thailand, Madam Ang said she only brings in durians from Malaysia, as the Thai ones were affected by the drought.

"Furthermore, their quality is not what Singapore customers want," she added.

Administrator Linda Yeo said her family loves durians and she is willing to pay the extra dollars if the taste is good.

'We will buy regardless of the price. We are really more concerned about the quality of the fruit," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2016, with the headline 'Durian is dearer amid Malaysia drought'. Print Edition | Subscribe