The HSBC confirmed it this week, "Contrary to global trends, demand for durian is experiencing a 400% year-on-year increase, driven solely by a fad in China." There is a real fever in China for durian, as the world's smelliest fruit -which people either love or hate- has become the perfect gift for newlyweds or the solution to improve relations with the in-laws.
In the last two years, Chinese durian imports amounted to 6 billion dollars, which accounts for 91% of global demand, stated Aris Dacanay, HSBC economist for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The durian boom began in 2017, but its demand has skyrocketed since the end of 2022
Nearly 90% of last year's durian exports originated from the bloc of ten Southeast Asian countries that make up ASEAN, i.e. 30% more than seven years ago. Trade accelerated with the reduction of taxes and the relaxation of customs procedures that resulted from the entry into force in early 2022 of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement signed by AESAN (Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, and Brunei) plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
They all want a cut of this business, but it's Thailand that controls 99% of ASEAN durian exports, according to HSBC. It will be the next rival that its neighboring countries have to beat, since its product is of higher quality and, at the moment, the clear favorite of Chinese consumers.
The Philippines signed an agreement on phytosanitary standards related to durian exports in January and exported its first fruits in April. Vietnam and Malaysia are already in talks with China to export this fresh product. "The Chinese market is so large that there is a lot of room for other ASEAN nations to export durians to China and compete," stated Dacanay, who sees the fruit as "the new rubber" if the trend continues.