In 2011, China opened trade of Malaysian durian. China is a huge market that already has a taste for durian. Currently, mostly due to its huge population, China is only one of the largest importer of durian in the world. It is predicted that as more Chinese get a taste for imported durian, the durian market will explode! To get a picture of how Malaysia is planning to take advantage of the new durian trade, I had to get in touch with the proper government agencies.
Meeting government officials is one of the most interesting and stressful parts of durian journalism. I’ve now met with officials in Indonesia and Thailand, but I still get nervous! Twice in Kuala Lumpur I woke early, put on my best clothing, and took public transportation to the fringes of the city to meet with researchers and government staff.
|A worker loads durians for shipment to Hong Kong|
First I met with Mr. Lee Yoon Keong, the Senior Director of the Fresh Produce Trading Division at the Federal Agricultural Marketing Agency (FAMA). We discussed how FAMA is currently promoting durian, both locally and abroad, and how they are planning to deal with the new situation in China.
One of FAMA’s main durian projects is the Jom Makan Durian, or “Durian Party” Service, which they organize for local businesses and government agencies. These all-you-can eat buffets are private versions of the durian buffets currently located at various locations around KL. They are offered at the comarable price of 15RM per person, 8RM for children. Interested parties can call Zaidi at 017-374022.
|Mr. Lee Yoon Keong picked out our durians|
Mr. Lee kindly invited us to a durian party the next day with the International Division. I was very excited, hoping to speak to someone about what changes the new export market to China would cause to the way durian is grown and handled. But due to a miscommunication over the phone, the FAMA car sent to pick us up went to the wrong address, and both parties ended up waiting for one another so long the durian party was over by the time we managed to connect.
|Mr. Lee filmed the strange sight- Americans eating durian!|
Generously, Mr. Lee treated us to our own durian party. We went to one of his favorite durian stalls where we tried a few new varieties. Mr. Lee shared with us his personal favorite, Tekka, also known as Bamboo Leg, D168, and XO, the infamous durian named after an expensive brandy. I was disappointed to learn that XO is not actually a variety, but the term for a top quality D24 durian. However, it was all delicious, and I think Mr. Lee was surprised how much durian we can eat!
|Ms. Mohd Nor shows off the various awards she has earned through her work with durian|
The next day I took a combo train, bus, and taxi to the Horticultural Research Center, a division of MARDI. There I met with Ms. Latifah Mohd Nor, the Senior Principle Research Officer of Postharvest Physiology. We discussed her most recent durian project, a technology that allows fresh durian to be kept for 3 weeks! This will allow sea shipment of fresh durian to anywhere in Asia, including China.
|Lab members donate some time to preparing fruit for an upcoming symposium|
At each interview I was impressed by the hospitality and generosity of the staff. Ms. Latifah sent me away with MARDI labeled pens and boxes of fresh fruit that had been packed in the lab downstairs for an upcoming MARDI function. I would like to express gratitude to all the various staff and officials of the Malaysian government who have generously provided statistics, contacts, intriguing details, and of course, their time.