Here’s why GLCs should invest in durian industry

The Malaysian durian is much-sought locally and abroad and it is high time he government and stakeholders studied the market to see how the King of Fruits can be a steady income generator for the country.

Former Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said industry players are making their mark in China due to the popularity of the fruit there and government-linked companies should do the same.

“I was in Semenyih earlier this week and a durian orchard owner told me he is keen to export more durians to China. There is a huge demand for the fruit and its paste is popular as well,” said Ahmad Shabery.

“Durian cake and durian pizza are quite a hit in China. And they seem to prefer Malaysian durians to those from neighbouring nations. It’s clear we’re the leaders in this segment. As such we should capitalise on it.”

Ahmad Shabery, who was instrumental in getting Musang King into China three years ago, warned that people’s taste buds often change and called for adequate studies and research to ensure durian planting can be a sustainable business.

He was the brains behind the three-day Nanning Durian Festival in November 2017, that saw locals waiting patiently in long queues just to savour the famous Musang King and by-products of durian.

“Right now, the demand for Malaysian durians is huge. Even if we export all the durians in the country, we still can’t satisfy the demand of the mainlanders. We must find ways to see how durian and its paste can continue to be a hit.

“Just look at how strawberries have evolved, from jams to tarts. We need to do the same with durians. We do have durian by-products like ice cream, cakes and even cookies. But with proper studies, we could see the fruit being a major income generator compared to palm oil which is less sustainable in today’s context.”

Ahmad Shabery (in green) enjoying durian during a programme in 2017.

Ahmad Shabery said it’s only logical for companies like Sime Darby and FGV Holdings to look at the durian industry seriously.

In 2017, Ahmad Shabery was quoted as saying that with 1.5 million registered trees, Malaysia could earn some RM2 billion in five years. When combined with durian tourism, transportation and downstream services, the durian economy could balloon to RM3 or RM4 billion over the same period.

“Diversification is key in any form of investment. Companies like Sime Darby and FGV Holdings have land banks and resources. They can lead this initiative.

“And if this works, the smaller plantations can follow suit,” he added.