|Festival goers rush to the durian pyramid in Wonosalam, East Java|
Last month, the big durian news story took place in an unexpected place: Canada. In February the spotlight returns to Southeast Asia, where it is prime durian season throughout most of Indonesia. But amidst the festivals and other durian shenanigans there are deeper, hard-hitting issues at play as Thailand and Indonesia squabble over Indonesia’s recent ban on Thai imported durian.
|Festival in Wonosalam|
Thailand is the big kahoona when it comes to durian. Not only are they the number one exporter of durian in the world by a large margin, their hybridized durian varieties are considered of higher quality than the local uncultivated durians of countries like Indonesia.
Not that Indonesians don’t adore their own local flavors. There were two durian festivals this month in Java alone to celebrate the peak of durian season. One of them, Kenduran Wonosolam, went off without a hitch for a two-day festival featuring 2013 durian, one for each year, and multiple tastings and competitions. You can see more photos at the Sipa Press.
The all-you-can-eat durian smorgasbord in Pekalongan, which made unexpected news when a brawl broke out over the quality of the durians. According to the Globe Journal, the fight started when a disgruntled attendee punched the ticket seller, claiming that his durian was under ripe.
Lack of durian quality is a current issue in Indonesia, where most durians are uncultivated and grow unmolested in backyard gardens. This means that fruit quality is really hit or miss, and many Indonesians believe that Thai durians, known as “Bangkok” durians, are better fruits overall than what is available at home. Strange as it is to imagine, a country with an abundance of stinky fruits actually imported 27,000 tonnes of durian from Thailand last year (2011).
|Thai durians for sale in Jakarta|
They won’t anymore. As of February, Indonesia has placed a moratorium on durian imports from Thailand in an effort to support local durian farmers. This move has created a rift between supporters of local durians and citizens who claim that by banning their favorite fruit their government has finally gone too far. You can read their letters to the Jakarta Post here (Comments: Import Moratorium) and more here (Comments: Local Durians Dominate)
Unsurprisingly, Thailand isn’t exactly pleased about the rejection of their durian. The Pattaya Mail reported that Indonesia’s drastic measures will effect their own durian economy by 600 million baht ($20 million US). For Thailand it’s bad news, but it’s the timing is worse. Horticulturalists expect a bumper crop this year. What are they gonna do with all those extra durians?
Someone should eat them (me! me!). But I don’t think I can make up for the loss of an entire nation of durian munchers all by myself. I’m calling on all durian lovers to lend a helping hand and appetite to Thailand’s durian. We might even have to call in help from Grant Campbell, last year’s champion durian gobbler at the Chanthaburi Durian Speed-Eating Competition.
On a related note: I just found out the dates of the Chanthaburi World Durian Festival. The Festival will be held from May 4th to 13th this year. Rob and I are planning on being there again this year.
|Rob and me at the Chanthaburi Durian Festival, 2012|
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