Harvesting season has just started for one of Southeast Asia’s most iconic fruits: the durian.
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With heavy downpours expected all throughout this rainy season, farmers say yields of the fruit this year will be higher than usual, but not enough to meet vast local demand. As a result, durian will continue to fetch a high price across local markets.
Durian is an acquired taste. Some compare its foul-smelling flesh to the aroma of mouldy socks and rotten eggs, but for fans it is the ‘king of fruits’. In Phnom Penh, they are often sold by the roadside and along the pathways that connect the city to the plantations.
Currently, a kilogram of Cambodian durian sells for about 2,500 riel ($6.25), according to Srey Mom Fruit Shop, a well-known store in Phnom Penh.
“Customers always want to know where their durian is coming from. They are demanding locally-grown fruits,” an employee at the shop said, adding that this year the price of durian will be slightly higher than last year’s.
Durians sold at her shop come from Stung Hao district in Preah Sihanouk province, she said.
Traditionally, durian season runs from May to the end of July, sometimes lasting until early August. The fruit is mostly planted in Kampot and Kampong Cham provinces, with a few plantations also in Koh Kong and Ratanakkiri, according to officers at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Chan Rithy, director of Kampot’s Provincial Agriculture Department, said the cultivation area for durian continues to increase every year in line with demand.
“Now it’s just the beginning of the harvesting season, so the price is quite high, but it is likely to go down when all plantations are fully harvested,” he said, adding that a kilogram of the fruit in markets across Kampot now sells for 25,000-30,000 riel ($6.25-$7.5), compared to last year’s 23,000 riel ($5.75).
Last year, 945 hectares were cultivated, out of a total of 1,231 hectares used for growing durian in the province. Each hectare yielded an average of 9.3 tonnes of durian.
Durian farmer Sah, who owns a farm in Kampot’s Tek Chu district, expects good sales of the fruit this year.
“People want local durian. It doesn’t have to be durian from Kampot, as long as it comes from within the country,” she said.
Output is also likely to increase in Kampong Cham, where 152 hectares are now used for durian plantations.
“With the strong support of local consumers and with a good price in the market, we expect the area used to cultivate durian to keep on expanding every year,” said Kim Saroeun, director of the Agriculture Provincial Department of Kampong Cham.