2017 has been a bumper year for Thailand’s longan producers. In heavy demand in many world markets, this year’s crop is of higher quality than last year’s thanks to the consistent rainfall throughout the growing season. Exports are also on the rise, mostly to China – either directly by ship or by road via Laos and Vietnam. Total longan exports to China this year are expected to reach 450,000 tons, with a value of over US$300 million. The most commonly exported variety is the Edor variety.
The longan fruit plays an important role in Chinese traditions, with people believing a fresh, peeled longan has the appearance of a dragon’s eye, and that by eating the fruit, they will obtain prosperity. The fruit is also thought to provide nourishment for the body, the brain and the eyes. Its sweet refreshing flavour is recommended as a treatment for anorexia.
Longan is finding its way on to markets elsewhere in the world, too. This year’s fruit is larger than last year’s, with the gold jumbo grade measuring at least 2.9 cm in diameter. This marks a recovery from 2016, when a lack of rainfall led to a smaller fruit and higher prices.
Prices of jumbo-grade longan in season range from US$0.45 to $0.60 per kilogram. Off-season fruit costs from US$1.06 to $1.36 per kg. In 2016, in-season fruit was priced from US$0.60 to $0.90 per kg, and fresh off-season prices ranged from US$1.80 to $2.10 per kg.
Alongside, durian, longan has become an important economic crop for Thailand. Most of the longan crop is produced in the northern provinces and in east. While the height of the longan season is in June, July and August, the fruit can also be harvested from November to Chinese New Year, to attract premium prices.