Coronavirus: Malaysia’s durian sellers saw boom in online orders during lockdown

  • Malaysia’s lockdown failed to come between Malaysians and their durians, with the period seeing a boom in e-deliveries
  • Sellers say the online demand for durians is a promising development for the industry

When a coronavirus lockdown confined Malaysians to their homes and shut roadside durian stalls, sellers were unsure if customers would take to ordering the beloved fruit online.

Motorbike and car deliveries were still allowed, however, and companies such as Dulai Fruits Enterprise turned to social media to market their frozen durians.

Eric Chan, managing director of Dulai Fruits, said he had been sceptical the move would work as Malaysians typically prefer their durians fresh, and a previous bid to sell them online had limited success.

But the company has seen roaring trade, with Chan saying: “By the fifth day of our sales, we (had) hundreds of orders every single day.”

There is room to grow, and room to grow fast

Tan Sue Sian, Top Fruits

Grown across tropical Southeast Asia, the durian is hailed by aficionados as the “king of fruits” due to its creamy, golden flesh and bittersweet flavour.Durians in Malaysia can cost more than 60 ringgit (US$14) a kilogram, and there are 137 officially registered varieties ranging from “Musang King” to “Black Thorn” and “Red Prawn”.

Durian trader Top Fruits has been selling prepared durian in sealed, 300-gram packs on Facebook, and was making about 80 deliveries a day during the lockdown, which began mid-March.

A worker cleans a durian in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Agence France-Presse
A worker cleans a durian in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Agence France-Presse

Managing director Tan Sue Sian said customers had come to see the advantages of having the fruit delivered to their door.

“You don’t have to worry about your car being smelly” after transporting the fruit, said Tan.

Online sales of the fruit in Malaysia have since slowed after restrictions were eased at the start of May, as durian lovers gradually returned to outdoor stalls.

Malaysia has seen a relatively small coronavirus outbreak, recording almost 9,000 cases and 124 deaths.

A durian stall in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Agence France-Presse
A durian stall in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Agence France-Presse

Online orders are still only a fraction of business for durian traders, with the bulk going to exporters – the fruit is particularly popular in China – and local shops, but they are hopeful about future prospects.

“There is room to grow, and room to grow fast,” Tan said.

Lindsay Gasik, who has written a number of books about the fruit, said it was about time that buying durians online took off.

Lindsay Gasik with her book, ‘The Durian Tourist’s Guide To Penang’. – The STAR

“I think once the supply chain and logistics got into place, people realised that it wasn’t that difficult to sell durians online,” she said.

She said aside from making it easier for people to get their durian fix via deliveries, online selling was also exposing them to more varieties and farms.

“It isn’t just a better situation for customers, it is also for the farmers,” she said. “Selling durians online is definitely here to stay.”

Agence France-Presse

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