The Thai-China Daily reported on the 28th of March that Chinese market demand for Thai durian and mangosteen pushed their prices up. And even though the overall export volume declined by 5% due to the outbreak of Covid-19, the import value of Thai durian in the Chinese market reached 2.3 billion USD last year and thereby overtook the prime position of import cherries.
In response to the growing production volume this year, the Thai Ministry of Agriculture set up a dedicated team that will implement and oversee the measures taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the durian industry. This is the only way to make sure that every durian that travels from Thailand to China is completely safe.
An employee of the Thai Ministry of Agriculture explained that the harvest season of durian in the production areas of east Thailand begins in March and reaches a peak in April. The harvest conditions of durian in the three eastern provinces of Chanthaburi, Rayong, and Trat are quite good this year. The production volume of durian expanded by 15.17% to a total of 633,476 tons, but the production volume of mangosteen declined by 25.97% to a total of 157,207 tons. The production volume of rambutan also declined, by 6.27%, to a total of 197,438 tons, and the production volume of longkong fruit declined by 12.75% to a total of 19,617 tons.
According to Chinese government data the overall import volume of Thai durian reached 575,000 tons in 2020. The import value was around 69 billion Thai baht [2.20 billion USD]. The import volume declined by 5%, but the import value explosively increased by 44%. That is the reason why durian defeated the ever-popular import cherries in terms of import value. It is worth noting that durian account for 23% of the overall fruit import value in the Chinese market. The 9 fruits with the largest import values last year included durian, cherries, bananas, mangosteen, fresh grapes, dragon fruit, longan, kiwi fruit, and oranges. The import value of dragon fruit increased the most by 53%.
There have been no reports of any infections with Covid-19 in the fruit trade between Thailand and China, but to keep the situation as safe as possible, Thailand conforms to all the regulations on food safety that the General Administration of Customs China (GACC) has implemented. The Thai Ministry of Agriculture has dispatched dedicated teams to oversee the strict implementation of preventative measures. The number of employed personnel has doubled just to make sure that traders in east Thailand are able to safely export their durian and mangosteen to the Chinese market. China is the most important market for Thai durian and mangosteen. Nearly 90% of the Thai export volume of these fruits is destined for the Chinese market.
Domestic consumers in Thailand may find the prices of durian and mangosteen a bit high this year. The production volume of durian increased by 15% this year, but demand from the export market has grown stronger and pulled the price up. Recent news reports show a price increase in east Thailand. Grade A durian costs around 200 Thai baht [6.37 USD] per kg.
Another employee of the Thai Ministry of Agriculture pointed out that the industry relied on strict supervision during the harvest, cleaning, and packaging of fruit to prevent the spread of Covid-19. At the same time, they also follow the standards for food safety and virus prevention as outlined by the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Committee.
In addition to GAP and GMP, Thailand also requires health certificates that prove the absence of Covid-19 before durian and mangosteen can be exported to China. Thailand expects their overall export value to exceed 70 billion Thai baht [2.23 billion USD] this year. The main problem, however, is not the prevention of Covid-19 in transport, as the procedures at the border have been standardized and normalized. The main problem is quality control in production areas. The actual export conditions this year will depend on the ability of farmers to maintain product quality during the production and harvest of durian and mangosteen.