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Thailand Promotes ‘COVID-Free’ Durians To Stabilize Chinese Market

February 08, 2021

According to Thai media reports, Eastern Thailand’s primary durian cultivation region will soon begin its harvest season. However, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, strict regulations are in place in the eastern provinces of Chanthaburi, Rayong and Trat that are affecting the export of all fruits, especially durians. The largest market for Thai durians is China, which imported more than $2.49 billion worth of the fruit in 2020. In a bid to bolster confidence in Thai durians among consumers in China — as well as the rest of the world — Thailand’s trade bureaus have recommended that fruit exporters implement a series of measures, including disinfecting the fruits and affixing a “No-COVID-19” label, as well as permitting Chinese authorities to audit the cultivation, packing and shipping of durians.

Since the start of the pandemic, China has implemented strict quarantine measures for imported Thai durian products. Before exporting to China, durian exporters must first submit certificates of Good Agricultural Practice and Good Manufacturing Practice to Chinese customs authorities and apply for a Department of Agriculture certificate. Durians approved for export then receive a Department of Agriculture serial number to facilitate source tracing in the event of contamination. The effects that these complex customs procedures are having on Thai durian exports can already be observed. Currently, less than 50% of Southern Thailand’s total durian production is being exported and the purchase price has fallen by 25%, as have the hopes of many durian exporters. If mitigating measures are not taken, Eastern Thailand will soon see similar effects on its durian exports.

The director of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce’s Center for International Trade Studies, Dr. Aat Pisanwanich, recently participated in an interview discussing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Thailand’s durian trade with China. Pisanwanich explained that China’s durian imports have decreased as a result of the pandemic, causing growing concern among Thai durian growers and traders. In reality, China has not halted its durian imports, although it has strengthened its quarantine measures, which has led to knock-on effects. Pisanwanich estimated that Thailand will harvest 1 million metric tons of durians in 2021, an increase from the 500,000–700,000 tons produced in 2020. Durians are Thailand’s main fruit product, a substantial portion of which is exported to China each year.

According to customs data, Thailand’s durian exports to China in 2020 displayed a large increase in value and a small decrease in quantity. Over the course of the year, Thailand exported a record-breaking $2.51 billion worth of durians to China, an increase from the $1.70 billion worth of durians exported the previous year. At the same time, the export volume fell from 604,000 tons to 576,000 tons, a year-on-year decrease of 4.6%. The explosive increase in the durian export value is thus mainly attributable to a substantial increase in unit price. Owing to the impact of the pandemic, the rate of durian exports slowed significantly in the second half of the year. The first two quarters saw a combined export value of over $1.64 billion, while the second two quarters yielded only $868 million. In December, Thailand exported 7,143 tons of durians with a total value of $38.4 million, the lowest of the entire year.

China’s increasing demand for durians in recent years has prompted Thai growers to begin increasing the durian cultivation area, often even at the expense of other major crops. According to Thailand’s Office of Agricultural Economics, Southern Thailand’s durian output is expected to increase by 22% compared to last year.

Image: Pixabay

This article was translated from Chinese. Read the original article.

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