Durian seller risk

What’s the risk of being a durian seller?

Well lots actually. In malaysia and singapore, there are lots of little one man stalls that sell durian whenever it’s in season. What sorts of risks could they possibly face? I thought I might take a stab at listing a few:

1) bad weather.

This affects the entire chain. From supply to demand. Bad weather, whether it’s too much sun or too much rain affects the fruiting of the trees and the numbers and qualities of the fruit. On the demand side, when it’s raining, less people are inclined to head out. Profits not guaranteed.

2) triads and corrupt cops.

Yes, most stalls in cities need to pay some sort of protection money, even if their stall is in a licensed area (which many are not, they are illegal hawkers). The problem here is that they are at the whim and fancy of all powers that be on the street. One of the durian sellers I had a chat with when I bought from him, told me that the triads come at least once a month to collect a certain sum of cash… he would just have to prepare it and pay up. Worse, he said, were the cops. They would come anytime and often different ones would also approach him. Either for free durian or petty cash. No choice in either situation. You gotta pay rent to someone.

3) it’s a cash business.

Well, it is mostly at these stalls… card facilities are just too expensive to maintain. Though with direct mobile payments, perhaps this might change. So you can imagine all the issues with cash dealing.., there’s lots of cash that needs to be kept safe every day (as a float, a day’s earnings or cash to buy durians off the middlemen) or you’re a target for thieves. Most durian sellers will try to have more than one person at the stall for exactly that reason and also try to place their stall in areas of high visibility (both for clients convenience and their own safety). Check out this latest article where a durian seller was robbed and stabbed.

4) the danger in the product itself.

Durians are heavy and full of thorns. Drop one on your foot and it is quite unforgiving unless you’re wearing mining boots. (Observe your sellers footwear in future :)) Durian sellers often have rough tough hands, coarse from handling fruit. Many durian are sprayed with pesticide to keep the bugs and other animals off, I can’t imagine what these chemicals do to the skin over time.

Durian Export: Comment and Headlines

Hello StinkySpikes readers,

A little bit more durian news from Malaysia. Sorry it’s late, but I think it is still good for all of us to keep track of what’s going on…

A comment in the local daily paper:

Durian news in NanYang newspaper

Monday May 30, 2011
What is happening to our durians?
Monday Starters – By Soo Ewe Jin

I AM getting a bit worried about the fate of the King of Fruits in Malaysia. Imagine, if only a fraction of the 1.3 billion people in China decide that they prefer durians over mandarin oranges, will there be any left over for us back home?

I reckon that Uncle Donald in SS2, and many others who tempt us with varieties ranging from the Kim Hoo to the Ang Sim, the Hor Loh to the Ang Heh, and also seedless types named after certain politicians, must now be looking at new marketing strategies.

Will they still want to offer us the “All you can eat for RM10” or “Eat Till You Drop” packages when a bigger market is now ready and open?

Over the past few months, Chinese officials have reportedly been sniffing around our durian plantations to check on our food safety standards. And we have passed the test.
File: Durians on sale in Petaling Jaya.

So when Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visited Kuala Lumpur at the end of April, he formally agreed to allow the entry of Malaysian durians into mainland China.

We are very happy, of course, and our government even sent a gift of 200 frozen durians to Wen to express our thanks. Nice gesture.

And now it is left to our planters and entrepreneurs to take up the challenge. But I do hope they will not forget the domestic market.

It’s tough enough that we lose some of our best durians to our neighbour down south but can we withstand a sudden rise in demand from the Chinese? Will we be left only with the kampung durian while the branded ones are exclusively for export?

After all, we are all familiar with the story of how Macau’s Gambling King, Stanley Ho, recently sent his private jet to collect 88 durians from Singapore.

Ho spent approximately RM4,800 on the fruit which he bought from the 818 Durian Stall in the city-state though we can safely assume that the fruit, the Musang King variety, came from Malaysia.

It works out to RM50 per fruit, not counting the transport costs. I guess this is really small change to the super-duper rich.

Durian Headlines in SinChew Newspaper

Ho didn’t eat it all but reportedly shared the bounty with his good buddy, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing.

Interestingly enough, a recent Forbes survey shows China now has the second most number of billionaires in the world, after the United States.

According to Forbes, China is home to 64 of the world’s 937 wealthiest people, but various estimates put the actual number of billionaires at between 400 and 500. What if all of them want to eat durians?

We all know that the King of Fruits is not something that only the very rich can afford. In fact, it is very much the common man’s fruit, so can you imagine how big the demand will be if the ordinary Chinese suddenly realise that when it comes to durian, only the Malaysian variety is the real thing?

Our neighbours up north will have a tough fight on their hands, having monopolised the market in mainland China all these years.

According to an Associated Press report, Thailand has dominated the durian trade for more than three decades. It shipped about 138,000 tons (125,000 metric tons) of durians worth nearly US$70mil last year to mainland China, which bought nearly 60% of Thailand’s global durian exports, according to UN trade statistics.

Malaysia, according to Fama (Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority), produces about 330,000 tons (300,000 metric tons) of durians a year, mainly for domestic consumption.

How much of that will now be exported is anybody’s guess. But, hopefully, any fight to control the China market will not get prickly or raise a stink.

Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin is currently barred, for health reasons, from consuming the King of Fruits. He hopes he can still find Balik Pulau durians when he gets well.