GEORGE TOWN - The price of popular musang king durians has plunged by between 20 and 50 per cent in Penang due to the coronavirus that kept Malaysians at home instead of eating out, market oversupply, a sharp drop in exports to China and fewer tourists in the country.
Ironically, a high yield is expected in the mid-year durian season because of favourable weather conditions.
According to a durian trader in Penang, Mr Tan Chee Keat, 1kg of musang king is now priced between RM24 and RM33 (S$8-$11) instead of RM55.
"We are facing a challenging time because of the (Covid-19) outbreak.
"Our export order has dropped by 70 per cent after Chinese New Year," he said, adding that China has been his biggest export market.
Mr Tan lamented the decision by many to put their trips on hold during the health scare, causing traders to experience a slowdown in business.
"People dare not travel for fear of getting infected. It's a shame because the durian supply in Penang will definitely be more than enough due to the long hot weather.
"Our durian flowers are blooming like crazy but still, we need to be cautious as the rainy season in March will affect the quantity and quality," he said on Tuesday (Feb 18).
A Durian Central business partner, who wished to be known as Mr Lim, said his stall in Macalister Road in Penang had seen a drop of 50 per cent in visitors since the Covid-19 epidemic.
"Our customers are usually from China, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong, and some of them are cruise passengers.
"However, the virus has stopped many tourists from travelling and our business has been slow lately," he said.
Mr Lim said the locals seldom eat durian during the off-season, and they will usually bring their friends from overseas to sample the king of fruits here.
"Penangites come only in May, June and July - the durian season here," he said.
He added that the price of musang king has gone down by 20 per cent since Chinese New Year.
Durian seller L.Y. Ang said the coronavirus outbreak has impacted the whole market, including the durian business.
"As the durians are flowering now, estate owners are expecting a high yield this year," he said.
He added that the durians on Penang island are mainly sold to locals and tourists.
"We do not export durians to China but many traders from other states in Malaysia do. Business will surely be affected if their durians cannot be exported," he said.
He said it is hard to predict whether the price of durians in Penang will drop further as it depends on market demand and supply.