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Sabah falling behind in durian potential
Published on: Sunday, August 01, 2021
By: Datuk John Lo
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SARAWAK has started to export durians to China. West Malaysia exports as much as RM1.4B worth of durians, especially Mau Sang Wang, mostly in the form of fresh fruits and paste, to China. Sarawak, like oil and gas, is streaming ahead of Sabah in the development of durians:

[a] It has already developed its own brand “Sarawak King” which is almost as tasty as Mau Sang King. Sabah can consider showcasing “tempaka” which can be renamed as Sabah King! 

[b] It has a serious plan and focused implementation strategy to establish Sarawak as another centre of supply for Mau Sang King for China. 

[c] It has established a durian processing centre. 

[d] It has been exporting around RM1M of durian to China every month. No doubt this will increase exponentially in the near future as it has been encouraging the growing of durian systemically. Note the key word “systemically”. Sarawak does not mess around. 

[e] Cost of production in Sarawak is a lot cheaper, resulting in much lower durian prices. 

[f] It encourages some substantial players as leader investors to invest in its durian production drive. 

https://www.theborneopost.com/2019/11/24/bright-musang-king-prospects-for-sarawak/

Huge Chinese Potential Durian Market and Sabah’s Advantages

China’s love affair with Malaysian durians [especially Mau Sang King] is insatiable. The Chinese market is huge and its middle class is growing rapidly. West Malaysian supply/export is a drop in the ocean now. Malaysia, because of Mau Sang King, has overshadowed Thai durians. Even with Sarawak jumping into the durian bandwagon, there are plenty of room for Sabah to enter into this exciting market. Sabah enjoys some tremendous advantages:

[a] Sabah is closest to China in distance.

[b] Sabah is well known in China, because of tourism. 

[c] More than 100 flights weekly pre Covid-19. Logistics in term of flights for durian export should be quite easy when normality resumes. 

[d] Good soil, regular rainfall. 

[e] Advance plantation/agriculture management knowhow.

Sabah Needs Private Sector Leaders To Get Organise.

With many advantages, Sabah, if we want to enter into this durian game, must get organised in some or all of the following areas ASAP.

[a] Policy and implementation strategy: - Sabah must have a clear policy and logical implementation strategy to encourage the development of a durian industry as soon as possible. These are essential to achieve success in any endeavour.

[b] AP for Export: I stand corrected. Sabah does not have any AP to export durians and/or any fruits/vegie. All 3 AP holders for durian export are in West Malaysia. In going forward and to encourage investment in the durian industry now, imperative that Sabah must have APs from the federal governments as a matter of Sabah’s right and urgency. Why should Sabahans be forced to pay fees to these West Malaysian AP holders to export our products? These AP holders are just toll collecting agents because they have some pieces of papers called APs, adding to our cost, uncertainties and headaches. We should no longer tolerate this sort of exploitation.

[c] G to G relationships: China is no longer a 3rd world country. Importation of food and fruits into China are strictly controlled. G to G relationship is critical.

Understanding and compliance of Chinese health regulations and standards are important. Start now for Sabah Government in collaboration with private sector players to look into this matter in preparations for durians and other exotic fruits for export into China.

[d] Identify Durian Leaders In Private Sector: - Best not for Sabah government or any GLC to lead in the development of the durian industry. It simply won’t work. More effective to have government as the facilitator. Best to identify some strong private sector players to invest and fund the growing of durians, including processing [esp. cold rooms], sales and marketing, R and D and logistics. There are already some such investors that Sabah Government can work with. With them in the forefront, small holders can benefit by becoming their cluster partners. 

[e] These big players can collaborate with the Sabah government in offering extension services/financial assistance to small holders to nurture their plantings and encourage quality control.

[f] The Sabah government, if it has not done it already, should [i] undertake a detail census on the acreage of planted durians and specie. [ii] The acreage to be planted in future. [iii] The target acreage sufficient to build a durian industry. [iv] Identify and develop other species to diversify marketing demands. 

[g] The Sabah Government can consider zoning or identifying specific suitable areas for durians. This will allow the development of economy of scale.

Use Durian As A Test Case.

So far yet so near. Near because there are a number of factors that favour the development/transformation of durian growing into an industry in Sabah. The only barrier keeping success away is the lack of a set of policies [including from farm to table policy], implementation strategy and government/ private collaboration. These can be done pretty easily and quickly.

If Sabah can succeed in the establishment of durian as an industry, there are many other high value crops for Sabah to look into and duplicate, obvious choices are avocados, honey pineapple, mangosteen etc. Real coup if we can find a way to export Sabah’s unique tarap!



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