China initiates domestic durian production and amps up imports to satisfy increasing demand 

China’s durian imports increased dramatically in 2023 up 69 per cent from the previous year to 1.4m tonnes according to data from China’s General Administration of Customs. This increase is largely due to increased imports from Vietnam following a new market access agreement in 2021.  

Thai durian transport truck export

Thai durian in transit

This new trade has disrupted Thailand’s market share which, according to reporting from South China Morning Post, was 100 per cent in 2021 and fell to 67.98 per cent in 2023.  

This is not to say import volumes from Thailand are in decline.  

Sam Sin, development director at S&F Produce Group in Hong Kong, who ships durian from Thailand, told the South China Morning Post, “Thailand’s durian shipments to China still went up last year as the consumer market in China’s mid-sized cities began to ripen.” 

Vietnam has lofty goals to meet this growing demand in China. After an increase in market share from practically nothing pre-2022 to 31.82 per cent last year for a total value of US$2.1bn, the country’s Department of Foreign Information announced it is aiming to reach US$3.5bnin durian turnover this year—a leap of 55 per cent from last year. 

The Philippines gained market access in early 2023 and subsequently took a 0.2 per cent share of China’s durian imports, Chinese customs data shows. 

Jonathan Ravelas, managing director of the Manila-based consultancy eManagement for Business and Marketing Services told the South China Morning Post durian growers are still prioritising the domestic market with surplus supply diverted to export. 

Logistical barriers make shipping from the Philippines to China more expensive than other South-East Asian countries, but with government support this could change.  

“The Philippines at the moment is the first potential alternative supply point,” Ravelas said. “The government will probably improve on farm infrastructure, like cold storage.” 

China has also initiated domestic durian production, harvesting its first crop in 2023. 

“Domestic durians are expected to have a production of 250 tonnes this year, and by next year they could be available on the market in bulk,” Feng Xuejie, director of the Institute of Tropical Fruit Trees at the Hainan Academy of Agricultural Sciences told South China Morning Post. “By [2025] the production could reach 500 tonnes.” 

Durian exporters in Malaysia are also pushing to gain access for fresh durian in 2024 after achieving access for frozen durian pulp in 2017 and whole frozen durian in 2019.