Can we turn our durian dreams into reality?

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Position to promote Malaysian Durians

In the last article we outlined the present situation of Malaysian durian and discussed about how to build durian into an industry. Some readers asked me further to discuss a strategy forward. In this piece, we integrated some key available information and outline a possibility:

Positioning as a premium fruit

I reiterate a reminder earlier; let’s not treat durian as a commodity; let’s promote durian as a high end scarce premium fruit. Everyone knows that the positioning as a commodity will only diminish value. Today quality of any product is a must; we need to strive to build uniqueness. Let me quote some information from a big data report published on China’s Fresh Market Product site:

*Thai durian sells for RMB40 per kg in China. but farmers only receive RM4 Ex farm, only 10% of the retail price. Another known fact to many is the Thai Durian industry is no longer run by Thai national.

*Chinese consumers have discovered Malaysian durians, they like our durians. In China, first durian became popular in the southern region; and slowly it spread to the central and now people in the north are getting interested. The Chinese Agriculture Academy predicts; the consumption of fruits among the Chinese will continue to rise; reaching 93 kg per capita by 2024. Tropical fruits are popular among Chinese consumers, and durian is the most loved tropical fruit.

*In view of stable growth, and no immediate increase in supply in the short run, all new plantations are not expected to have high yield in the next 5 years; we can safely expect prices to hold within this period. The question therefore is; how do we position this prized produce? How we build the industry surrounds its positioning. Regardless of whether it was the Chinese who discovered Malaysian durian or our traders have discovered the China market; we see a growing potential for Malaysian durian in China.  Within the durian planting and trading community; government and private, there is a need to build a consensus on its positioning, and instruct how we develop the orchard fruit into a high value industry.

*Big Data revealed buyer of durian in China are young Chinese women in the age range of 25-30. There is a Thai Brand (泰蓝), they use Musang King durian from Malaysia and processed them into 150 gm ready to eat packs, like ice-cream or yogurt packs.  These little packs retail for RMB79 online. At this price level, and selling online there is sufficient margin to make the effort worthwhile. This is one success story we can make reference to.

*Another known fact is durian tend to develop strong loyal fans; their return purchases are high; in fact, no fruit enjoyed this kind of status with their fan base. These durian fans are ever enthusiastic about durian, there seems to be a magic here, durian fans not only seek out the best durian, they tell each other and act as goodwill ambassadors. I watch durian farmers enjoying themselves so much when fans show delight in eating their fruit. There is a certain happy energy associated with this fruit. In the age of social media today, we can build the database of durian fans to enable future direct communication and promotion.

*We also know that Malaysian durians are not suitable to be harvested before they are fully ripe; hence this doesn’t make the fruit suitable for long distance export route to foreign markets. Research has been done on plucking the fruit earlier; but the time window is insufficient to make export of fresh fruits viable. The viable option today is using IQF deep freeze processing technology where the goodness of the fruit can be fully preserved. We need to educate export markets; that frozen durian is as good as fresh. Admittedly when you have to keep your durians in refrigeration; hiding them in fridges as some may say, it is hard to promote and sell. However, we may just have to turn this feature into an advantage, that we have deliberately selected this way as naturally ripen durians have nutrients at their maximum; and in line with consumers’ quest for natural food today; with concerted effort, we may be able to create a new taste.

Durian’s Blue Ocean of Scarcity

If the present supply is scarce, how would we market this precious fruit and get the value we deserved? If we go by the traditional export route; through wholesale, retail; a product of RMB200, may have to allocate 50% of this value to the logistics and distribution in the chain. Admittedly there is no super profit here as the distributors have to cover risks of spoilage, handling mishaps, cost and distribution of profit of all players in the value chain. But in this ‘more of the same old ways’ the growers do not stand to rise with the tide. So what other options do we have?

Let’s discuss the following strategy:

  • Build durian tourism

Instead of working so hard to find to export the product and share the profit with others; why not we think about putting our effort to attracting more tourists coming to Malaysia to eat durians. Why not we develop a strategy for durian tourism? Globally there are very few attractions that can draw large crowds flocking to a location and create value for the local economy. Where fans are willing to spend money and visit the place to enjoy the unique experience. The Japanese Sakura Hanami is one example. If anyone wishes to see the sakura or cherry blossom flowers in full bloom in spring; you just have to visit Japan at the right time.  Every year from March to May; almost 6 million tourists visit Japan, and hey spend an average of RM6,000 per capita during their stay. This is called unique locational advantage; it is unique and special, not available anywhere else.

For the Malaysian durian, the situation is the same. If you would like to taste fresh durian; you have to come to Malaysia at the right time. Chinese tourists to Malaysia numbered 2 million in 2016; average spending is RM3000 per capita. We can build on this foundation.

i)Develop 10 special durian tourists site throughout the country; work in partnership with state governments.  In these selected sites, build public infrastructure to support large tourists’ arrival; ensuring safety; convenience and comfort. Today’s young tourists no long comes in group tours, many armed with their mobile phone, rely on the web to guide them to their desired places. Just like Japan builds and updates the Sakura viewing site, we need to build a comprehensive Durian Tasting site; where farms are listed; directions on how to get there, Transportation (Uber to be recruited as partners) and bookings for durians can be made. Durian tasting packages can be developed in partnership with these farms, selling through MAS and Air Asia; as well as homestay or hotels on the selected sites. We then work with distribution agents in China to pre sell these tours; selling durian coupons which will be honoured by the receiving farms and retail establishments in major tourist cities. This way we can ensure maximum visitors arrival to enjoy the harvest season.

ii)The Department of Agriculture (DOA), farmers’ organisation and FAMA, together with Tourism Malaysia and state tourism bureaus; can work together to beautify and build interesting visitor centres in the selected durian parks. Visiting farms, with large crowd is not a good idea as we have considerations for bio-security.  On these visitors centres we build creative structures; ones that is tropical in character, promotes good air flow, clean and comfortable; surround them with beautiful local fauna; build gardens around them. These visitors’ centres can serve both tourists local and foreign as well as the local community. They can serve as the regular Sunday market, and during harvest season, they are turned into durian fairs. Let the designers go to work, build covered structures with easily maintained toilets, wash basins and rest benches. Be friendly to old people and the handicapped, and of course lots of parking.

iii)Build an Annual Durian Festival:  Each year when the northern hemisphere goes into summer, we pick a couple of day to launch a big festival and concert. Just like the highly acclaimed Rain Forest World Music Festival, it has now become a permanent features of Sarawak Tourism. Started in 1998, with only 300 attended the first festival, after 20 years, the festival is attended by over 20,000 fans from the world over.  Durian is a key attraction for Tourism Pahang, Johore and Penang, for example. How can we use Durian as the main theme, but bring together other folklore, art, cuisines, music and dance to celebrate the diversity while we celebrate durian harvest? How do we assemble the very best from around the region to present to the world? 

Room for Growth for Chinese Tourists

There is still room for growth for Visit Malaysia tourism among Mainland Chinese visitors. Thailand for example hosted some 9 million tourists in 2017, bringing in almost 6 billion bath (750 million ringgit) in tourism receipts. The charm and magic of the Musang King durian can be enlisted to help in the promotion; we need to build a systematic, sustained promotion campaign; with specific targets and objectives, sustained effort to build to critical mass, say in 5 years bring this number up to 10 million. We can also mobilise the clan networks of the Malaysian Chinese in China; they can help pre-sell durian festival coupons. Let’s try to imagine; if we grow 2.1 m visitors to 10m, 50% of them like durian, and each one spends RM1000 on durian (both enjoying the fruit while here as well as bringing back with them); Chinese are willing to spend on food; this amount is not impossible. This can translate into 500 million in revenue; and we are keeping all these here at home.  Then the 5 million tourists start sending photos and visuals on their We Chat to their friends; say each send 10; this means we reach 50 million at no costs of our own! If each of them sends a further 10, you would have reach 1/3 of the Chinese population!  So we have to develop beautiful scenes where people will take photos that will go viral. This suggestion is not theoretical, we implemented this through a Pahlawan Volunteers initiative on Visit Malaysia Cyber campaign in 1997, the effort received commendation from the Prime Minister and Tourism Minister.

When the Chinese have an unforgettable durian tasting and culinary experience in Malaysia, they will share with friends in their circle, and the positive spin will elevate the status of durian and Malaysia. We ought to make full use of the “fans-economy,” this way we keep much of the revenue at home; benefiting grower, traders and the multiples of inbound tourism help to spread the durian ripples into the other economic sectors.  Remember we mention Thailand’s experience at the start of this article, we should not take that route.

2.Building online sales and assemble the big data on durian fans.

Here the nation needs to come together with one mind and one strategy; the government, fruit dealers, growers must unite to protect the good name of Malaysian durians. We only bring the best durians to the market; and this reputation must be strictly protected, nothing is more important than the integrity of your brand. There is durian dealer in Thailand who is so strict with its quality standards; out of over 100 durian farms, only one can meet their standard. But this insistence pays off, consumers are willing to pay more, as much as 33% on top of the regular price to get to quality fruits. This further affirms our plead to all; produce good quality fruits to get higher value.

A central durian web(Durian Central) and mobile APP be built; so each tourists can find their own way and the APP also serves as the tour guide. All durian related products and services can be listed here, and let the visitors rate their experience online. The entire Malaysian durian industry must be disciplined and work hand in hand to build a sterling reputation, the brand is Malaysian durian.

  1. Develop downstream derivative applications, use durian as an ingredient

Unlike other tropical fruits, durian has an extra-ordinary property that lends itself to be used as an ingredient in a range of derivative applications. China seems to be more advanced in the derivative applications; from the durian pancake dim sum at at the Guangzhou tea houses, western pastry, cakes, tarts, puffs, pizza, deserts, ice cream to moon cakes; the possibilities are unlimited. Although there is a wide range of these offerings today; they only use a very small portion of our durian production; not more than 10% of durian harvested go into this sector. Nevertheless, this is an important value add for the industry.

4.Frozen Premium Fruit as Gifts

Everybody knows the difference between Malaysian and Thai durians; however, we should stop comparing them side by side. Online, some traders are still doing a comparative push for their products. Admittedly at the early stage of the industry; this is a common feature; traders are trying to attract the attention of existing durian fans and direct them to Malaysian durians; but long term, if we want to avoid the fate of RMB40 per kg, we must change course.

The Unique Comparative Advantage of Malaysian Durians:

People know and yet don’t’ quite know; why is Malaysian durians far more superior than other durians? Why with so much experience behind them, Thailand cannot produce the same premium stuffs that we do? Do we know why? My observation of the quality of tropical fruits from the equatorial region revealed the answer; It is the equatorial climate, stupid.

Being close to the equator gives us our comparative advantage, a uniqueness that cannot be duplicated elsewhere. The equatorial region is located 10-degree north and south of the equator. The latitude position of Malaysia (4.2105°N), Thailand (5.8700° N), Vietnam (14.0583° N) ,Philippines (12.8797° N) and Indonesia (0.7893° S). Although much of Southeast Asia are in the tropical climate with summer all year round; but within the 10-degree zone of the equatorial region; the sun’s rays directly reach the vegetation, and there are 2000 hours of sunshine a year. The sunshine promotes photosynthesis and sugar making, hence most tropical fruits have high brix or taste sweet.  There is plentiful rainfall, between 2500 to 3000 mm per year.  Long term, Indonesia can and will pose as a greater competitor for Malaysia durian, not Thailand, Vietnam or the Philippines. Sumatra, Java and large tracks of land in the Borneo island of Kalimantan, with their rich soil, big land mass and hard working locals, they hold good potential in durian cultivation.

Frozen durian for export, take the path of premium gift sales

Here in Malaysia we wait for the durians to ripe and fall naturally. We don’t pluck them ahead to make time for the global distribution chain. This is because the nutrients in naturally ripen fruits are the best; and we uphold this practice to produce premium fruit. Today’s modern IQF freezing technology can help us preserve the goodness in ripen fruits; and cold chain distribution can help us get our product to consumers. This is a unique selling point of Malaysian durian and we must keep it. So when durian reaches the destination markets, they need to be sold as premium, and in China’s case, often used a very precious gift item.

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持续了一年多的榴莲高烧(Durian Fever) 是一场能成真的榴莲梦还是像一些业者说的《自己讲自己爽》; 抄作过头,自己相信自己的宣传造势? 马来西亚榴莲是否能从小园经营走向大规模的园丘种植;量产出能具出国条件的新经济名脉产品?识货的中国食客人数是否会持续健康增长? 我们一起来探讨; 先来看看现状。

1.榴莲的商业种植在马来西亚起步较晚,直到最近五年(在2012年开始,榴莲的农场价格才开始超过一公斤10令吉,农民才开始意识到榴莲的潜力。去年当异常天气现象导致马来西亚榴莲 九成的失收,榴莲价格飘涨了10倍,榴莲好像要迎来一个华丽的转身,升级为一个黄金果。从那时候起,国家领导人,政要,国内国外投资者开始疯榴莲,榴莲的商机好像突然处处可见;尤其是谈到中国人疯榴莲;大家都雀跃不已,“现在不到 1% 中国人吃榴莲”, 想想如果13 亿人口都吃榴莲的话,那个市场前途无量!这会是一个能成真的现实吗?

2.马来西亚农业局注册有205种不同的榴莲品种; 猫山王和 D24是其中两种较稳定和能够量产的品种。在马来西亚猫山王的品种在不同的气候和土壤条件下也会有不同的味道;最有特色的来自彭亨州的劳无, 南马地区也有一定的产量。  泰国和越南也有种植猫山王,但因气候和水土不一样,味道也不一样。泰国和越南积极的在名牌品种种植上要迎头赶上,来个全民种植猫山王;向马来西亚大量进口种子和树苗。

3.在马来西亚榴莲是由一批小园主种植。不像泰国在榴莲种植历史上有200多年的历史,大规模的种植,也形成了一个产业。 马来西亚的榴莲是小农户,马来西亚榴莲种植只有80 年的积累。在全马来西亚榴莲种植面积也只有6.6万公顷,年产量只有33万公吨。马来西亚榴莲的出口 30000 吨左右;2017 年创汇马币七千万左右。马来西亚榴莲种植是一个乡下华人自立更生的故事;没有谁给予很多的协助;靠农民自身的努力,坚持,默默的守护着他们的芭场;最近几年才守得云开见月明!

4.榴莲是一种森林树;果树自然成长,天生天养;以前人为的介入(用肥料和农药)比较少;很多园是没有灌溉设备的, 更不用说防旱的应对措施。一碰上反常的气候,只有看天由命。不像有大规模的种植面积的油棕,榴莲因为还处在花园果树和园丘种植之间,因此,大的肥料公司没有研发特为榴莲成长不同阶段需要的肥料配方;今天都是农民自主的研发,”摸着石头过河“ 反复试验来种植。现在还 缺一个SOP; 一套可靠的程序来确保种植成功。

5.产品因为自然。因此马来西亚榴莲的价格很高。泰国榴莲是一种商品( commodity),马来西亚榴莲,就像松露,虫草,燕窝,人参 --是珍贵的食品 ( Fine Food)。价格昂贵; 因为美味和香浓,有一群忠实的粉丝。泰国榴莲因为量产也开始面对因化肥造成的土壤酸化,未来产量会受到威胁。泰国榴莲和马来西亚榴莲是在不同的级别;经营者有必要为马来西亚榴莲作适当的定位;也要以其高级水果的定位来经营。

6。在 2015年 中国从马来西亚和泰国进口  299000 吨榴莲鲜果 (价值5.68 亿美金)不包括榴莲泥和其他的产品。(榴莲是中国第四大进口水果- 随香蕉,樱桃,葡萄后) 2010-2015 年间;中国榴莲进口量每年(以总量计算)增长12%,(以价值计算)增长 31%. (泰国出口 358000 吨,价值 3.8个亿美金。马来西亚出口 20000 吨,价值 1700 万美金。泰国榴莲每吨美金1061,马来西亚榴莲美金850。 在马来西亚一个榴莲树年产量在73 kg 左右 (有61 个1.2 kg的果)。 马来西亚农业局认为现在的产量是产能的 40% 左右。


据联合国统计,新加坡去年进口了17,847吨榴莲,其中93%来自马来西亚。马来西亚每年生产302,000公吨。然而榴莲对中国的出口量仍然很低,2015年对华出口约为23m (两千3百万令吉),2016 年同期为18m(1800万令吉),总出口额 (74m)7,400万令吉。泰国是全球最大的榴莲出口国,占有世界市场90%。 2012 年出国 371946 吨,主要去中国,台湾和香港。

在中国300克冷冻榴莲肉零售每包在180-220元人民币之间,每包2公斤速冻原果收费580元人民币,包邮费送到全国各地。 中国东北地区一个水果批发商每年进口泰国榴莲1000 个货柜;一个柜子22 吨; 总共 22000 吨。这个经销商估计以马来西亚 榴莲的品质,他们计算一年可以进 3 条船;总共300 个柜子,22 吨一个柜;总共 6600 吨。但是,这个数量的榴莲是要走和泰国一样的渠道来销售?定位和销售手法一样吗?消费的群众是哪些?

现在所有声称可以把榴莲原果送到中国的商家都难做大,因为他们不能公开敲锣打鼓的销售。他们在网上或小范围摊子(Kiosk)的卖。这主要是中国政府还没有正式开放榴莲原果市场给马来西亚新秀榴莲原果。 马来西亚榴莲可以在成熟前摘下来吗?一个农民意外的发现;要完全成熟之前摘下的果实;发现只能在完全成熟前5天采摘水果。这不够时间做鲜果出口。 如果榴莲出国要在冷冻状态下销售,要藏起来买,这个方法能买出大量的榴莲吗?




我们也知道知道商家有一些传统恶习 – 在做榴莲泥方面,像把泰国猫山王和马来西亚的猫山王混在一起;,把D24和猫上王混在一起当猫上王来卖,来自泰国或越南的榴莲,称之为马来西亚榴莲来卖等等。为了节省成本,将乡下榴莲与D24和一小部分猫上王混合。这都可以理解,因为在一个新兴行业萌芽的阶段,会有很多商家想要快快的捞一笔;但这些短视的做法会像倒洗澡水时把宝宝也一起倒出去;榴莲产业还没有建立起来就夭折了。这不是马来西亚榴莲应该得的;我们会辜负大自然给我们这个珍品!



(一)在种植方面;其中一个最关键的问题是水。如果你去马来西亚最大的猫上王产区;沿着双溪吉流水系,你会看到数以百计的水管从河里取水接驳到榴莲园来灌溉。专家说,榴莲需要大量的水;一棵榴莲在一轮灌溉中需要4000 毫升水,每3天灌溉一次!马来西亚是否有计划为榴莲种植建立水库?地方政府和农业部有研究在主要山脉斜坡的土地,和合适的平芭适合种榴莲的地方,做一个周详的规划,建立集水区或大小水库,一方面为种植业作灌溉用水,另一方面作为防洪,一劳永逸的解决东海岸各州每年水患的痛苦。

(二)榴莲要从园艺种植发展成大规模园丘,大资金的投入是必须的。 榴莲需要7 年的成长,好榴莲来自有一定年龄的老果树。 除了买土地和开发费用;一棵树需要用到 2到5千元的投入, 才开始有回报。 在这段时间园主必须有足够资金,能耐和像用种植短期作业的应对的策略。灌溉设备需要每亩地投放3万令吉,土地要保留一部分做储藏水用地。 肥料占投入成本的一半;农友说,“你给它吃,它就会给你吃。“ 许多树营养不足,因价格和市场的不确定性让农民不敢投放肥料。

(三) 除了资金以外;榴莲种植也严重缺乏有见识和具备科学头脑的农友。许多人只雇用一些未经训练的外劳。马来西亚农友对照顾和管理大面积果园或种植园经验尚浅;现代农业是一个精细的知识领域,什么矿物质,多少微量元素; 土壤的酸性碱性平衡  什么时候用什么和多少,这都是非常精确的知识。生产和管理水果的质量和数量不能看老天爷的脾气,农民乱拳打天下的时代也过去了,要有好结果必须要科学规划。资金固然重要,但只是钱不能保证榴莲种植能成功。培养一经营班子是关键的。很多掌握大资金的油棕公司也蠢蠢欲动,用大资金来抢滩;这个做法到现在还未看到成功的例子。较稳健的方法是聚焦;集中资源;先从小范围做起,成功稳定后再扩大。

(四)适当培育出口市场 – 正如我们所说,榴莲应该作为优质良品出售,而不是商品水果。因此 像松露,虫草,燕窝同样的定位来细分市场。我们如何在合适的环境下体现榴莲的价值,而不是让榴莲在淘宝上或批发零售市场上进行价格战!现在榴莲产量不足,我们是否可以聚焦在发展榴莲旅游业,来马来西亚吃榴莲, 以榴莲来拉动整个旅游业。反观今天在还未完全准备好的情况下出口,卖不好,买不到一个好价钱;马来西亚自己人没有得到应得的回报;让中间人赚去大部分的利润;农友的辛苦, 投资人没有合适的回报?这是需要好好想想的。


我在过去的12个月的留心观察;看到了很多新农民,他们是想回到种植业的专业人士和退休的企业人。他们愿意接受新的知识,并会采取新的做法。 还有资金雄厚的大种植财团;他们有能力做研发。榴莲产业的建设需要时间,马来西亚农友和投资人也不能急于一时;先谋定而后动;在榴莲走向产业化的过程中;会出现哀鸿遍野,也会有许多失望的灵魂,这都是因为我们对这个产业的经营认识不够,也有不现实的期望。 像有人对投资人说榴莲只需要4年就可以有收成;一棵新树固然会结果;但较清醒的农友会告诉你,一个年轻开始来月事的女孩可以但不宜怀孕的道理;必须耐心等到她完全成熟;就像榴莲进入她的第7-10年期一样,会有一个过程。

榴莲要成一个行业(Industry)需要一个政府,产学研合作的大战略,现在的跌跌闯闯的乱象有让这个好产业夭折的风险。 马来西亚得天独厚;上天对它非常眷顾;我们需要一个有为的政府,有行业知识有现代市场经营理念的行政单位;和愿意合作的私人企业;要有现代经营理念的新农友;一起合作守护榴莲的价值,用匠工精神来呵护和催生这个产业;和世界分享上天给我们的美味榴莲。

2018 年 二月 五日 马来西亚劳无 双溪吉流(冯久玲是亚洲大趋势研究所创始所长,:《文化是好生意》的作者。正在准备新书《选择-好生活的新定义》的出版。)


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Hello friends, SELAMAT DATANG

It is with great delight we present you many Malaysians’ favorite fruit, the King of Fruit, The Durian. From Malaysia with love, we are glad to share with you our unique durian.

This blog will bring to you information on durians; this blog will tell you why Malaysian durian is unique, and  Yes, with technology; you can now enjoy this quitessential Malaysian fruit in the comfort of your home, brought to you through quick freezing and vacuum packed, where you can enjoy 100% natural durian in the comfort of your home, starting December 2011 in China, and soon elsewhere in the world.

Stayed tuned.

SELAMAT DATANG – means WELCOME in Malaysia’s national language.

Copyright Reserved@Medistem Sdn Bhd. Copyright of the text in both English and Chinese belongs to Global Confucius Center (M) Sdn Bhd

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