Chinese love “affair” with Durian, the most controversial fruit

The Chinese’s love for durian is hidden in their DNA, according to Mr Wen Chao, founder of Wenji Durian.
Tue 24/05/2022 by Pierre Escodo

“Durian is really an interesting fruit, it is an imported product, but its protein, sugar and lipid ratio just coincides with the eating habits of the Chinese. The Chinese people’s love for durian seems to be engraved in their DNA. The world is a Chinese business, whether it is the origin or the sales side of durian” said Wen Chao. He reminded that Chinese writer Yu Dafu wrote in “Nanyang Travel Notes”: “Durian smells like a mixture of stinky cheese and onions, and has a smell similar to turpentine. It’s really stinky, fragrant and delicious”.

If you want to make a list of the most controversial fruits, durian must be at the top of the list. No other fruit can be like it, and the evaluation will be so divided.

Durian has its legend

There are different opinions about the origin of durian so far, and the origin is uncertain. One says that it originated in Malaysia, and some say that the origin is Brunei. It is said that the name “durian” was given by Zheng He. According to legend, when Zheng He went to the west for the third time, he found a strange fruit on the coast. It was covered with spikes and looked like a mace. He picked the fruit and opened with a knife. He tasted it casually, and found that the taste was fragrant and sweet, so delicious that he forgot to miss his hometown. After staying on the coast for three days, he ate it for three days. When he left, he was reluctant leave it, so Zheng named the fruit “durian”, which means “to linger and forget to return”.

The superfood

Durian is rich in nutrients such as protein, fat, sugar, etc. There is a saying in China that “one durian has three chickens”. Folks love and dislike durian equally, and there are as many diehard fans as black fans. In addition to selling fresh fruits, durians are also made into various products, durian mooncakes, durian cakes, durian pancakes, and more. Durian is one of the most difficult fruits to achieve standardized production and sorting in the fruit industry. Ordinary people can’t tell anything by its appearance.

Durian sorting still a challenge

Wen Chao has inspected all the durian testing machines that are being developed and sold on the market.

“As far as I know, there are at least four teams in Thailand that are working on this, and I have visited each of them. Production lines like citrus and apples can be industrialized, and the quality of the fruit can be sorted out after basically one pass through the machine. But not durian”.

Wen Chao mentioned that there are four main principles used in the current measurement of durian machines: near-infrared spectroscopy, X-rays, microwaves, and electrical properties, but the effects are not very satisfactory for durians.

“At present, the quality of durian can only be sorted manually, and there is no accurate data to judge.”

Dry matter an indicator

The dry matter is also an indicator for judging the quality of durian: a little change in content has a great impact on the taste of durian. Last March officials from the Ministry of Agriculture of Thailand visited the Wenji Durian factory and randomly sampled the dry matter content of two Jialon durians. The test results were 37% and 40% respectively. The average is 27%. However, the dry matter content needs to be tested by opening the shell, which cannot be applied to the actual screening process.

In order to ensure the quality of durians, Wenji has extremely strict screening conditions for orchards. In Thailand, only one of the 107 orchards can meet the requirements of Wenji durians. The orchard has a dedicated fruit picking team. Half of the salary is based on market feedback on the product. Each picker at Wenji has a code laser engraved on the durian handle, and they are responsible for every durian they pick.

Triple market price

Wenchao and a reporter from shared an interesting phenomenon. In Bangkok Central Mall, the price of a Golden Pillow variety with a shell can be as high as 180 yuan/kg, the pulp is 435 yuan/kg, and the price of origin is 3 of the domestic retail price. Although the largest consumer market for durian is in China, domestic consumers’ requirements for the taste of durian are still relatively basic, and their sensitivity to quality is not so high. Wholesalers just picked out some of the good fruits, and kept the best ones locally. Some consumers in the local market are very sensitive to the quality of durian, and they are mainly Chinese.

Seasonnal varieties

Despite the large amount of domestic imports, except for the well-known varieties such as Golden Pillow and Musang King, most consumers lack understanding of the quality and category of durian, and there are few mature durian brands.Wenji also produces Golden Pillow and Musang King, and its main varieties include Ganyao, Longshank, Tomani and so on. “What kind of fruit is produced in what season of origin, we mainly focus on what kind of fruit, such as Jialun in March, Tomani in April, Golden Pillow in May, Musang King in June, etc.”

The “gold rush” for durians

In recent years, due to the crazy pursuit of durian in China, the planting area of ​​durian in Thailand has been expanding every year, the supply has continued to rise, and the market competition has become increasingly fierce. But for Wenji, this is an opportunity. Unlike domestic wholesalers who go directly to the origin to purchase durians, Wenji has cooperative durian production areas in Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Wenji directly participates in the planting side, and spends a lot of time in the early stage in establishing supply chain standards. .

Wenji durians quality standards a reference

“From communication with fruit farmers, company employee training, cooperation with service providers, etc., it is extremely difficult to establish common standards. When your standards are different from others, you must set the standards of each group. It takes a lot of time to explain it to someone and implement it.” “When the supply increases, quality is extremely important. After several years of accumulation, the supply system of Wenji durian has become very mature.” It is understood that the closer the durian is picked to maturity, the better the taste, but the greater the risk. The maturity of Wenji durians is over 85% at the time of picking, which requires strong transportation channels to match.

Shorter supply chain

“Air freight means that it can be shipped in the morning and can be delivered to North Shanghai and Guangzhou in the evening; land freight is to go to Jiangnan market first, and wholesalers go directly to Jiangnan market to deliver goods, and durians are quickly dispersed to all corners. We have done our best to shorten the time to the shortest time”. The first cabinet of durians sold by Wenji was in Jiangnan Market. The price was 5 yuan more expensive than the best-selling durians at that time. Without any publicity, Wenji durians became gods in the first battle and quickly became popular in the fruit wholesale market. Open word of mouth, some fruit wholesalers even directly sell Wenji durian as a single product.

Varietal R&D

In order to develop new varieties, Wenchao bought 60 acres of land in Thailand. Although the most popular varieties on the market are Golden Pillow and Musang King, Wenchao feels that it is uncertain which variety will be more popular in the future, so he must keep trying. Soft Golden Moon and Suzaku are the new varieties that Wenji is currently promoting. In addition to the research and development of new varieties, Wenji also has other plans. One is to optimize the existing varieties. Wenji is determined to make the taste of each variety the best.

“If the golden pillow you have eaten is not delicious, it is not that the golden pillow is not delicious, but the golden pillow you have eaten is not delicious”, Wen Chao said with a smile.

The second is the localized planting of varieties from other origins. There are 13 durian producing areas. Wenji collected high-quality varieties from each production area and transplanted them to the Wenji base to test the yield and taste per mu. Wenji has made a plan for 10 or even 20 years.

High market risk

“The further the market price of durian goes, the cheaper the price. On the surface, we are giving farmers a lot of money, and they have left Wenji with good products, and Wenji is indeed more expensive than its peers. But we may be later than others. After ten days of picking, plus the time difference in trade, the price has been falling during this period, and if Wenji can’t reduce the price, consumers will think that we are selling sky-high durians.”




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