KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG) - Malaysia is all geared to satisfy China's craving for a pungent, football-sized thorny fruit.
That's because China's General Administration of Customs has approved imports of frozen whole durian fruit following an agreement signed in August, according to Mr Sim Tze Tzin, Malaysia's deputy minister for agriculture and agro-based industry.
"The durian market in China is so big but we've only managed to export a little durian pulp and frozen paste to China," Mr Sim said in a Facebook post on Friday (May 31).
"The export of whole frozen durians will open the market to durian farmers and increase their income."
China currently imports around 300,000 metric tons of durian each year, mainly from Thailand, he said.
Malaysia ships only 17,000 tons, or 5.8 per cent of its annual production, mainly to Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Australia, the US and China.
Durian often invokes a love or hate relationship: aficionados describe the internal yellow carpels as a rich, butter-like custard, with hints of chives and caramel in whipped cream. Others are repulsed by its polarising smell, which has been likened to rotting garbage and dirty gym socks.
Durian devotees in China are embracing different foods incorporating the fruit such as yogurt, cookies, coffee and pizza.
However, getting the whole fruit is a rare treat: a Malaysian durian festival in southern China late 2017 attracted about 165,000 people lining up to taste the thawed, whole-fruit samples of the country's premium Musang King variety.
China's skyrocketing demand won't drive up prices as many farmers have started planting durians and production may increase, Mr Sim said.
Malaysia is also looking to boost production of durian products like ice cream and biscuits, and attract tourists to durian farms as part of what it calls "DurioTourism."