Local demand for domestic durian will be high this year as border restrictions complicate the entry of imports from neighbouring countries, according to Cambodian vendors and growers.
Khim Bunleng, founder of the "King of Durian" shops in Phnom Penh, told The Post on May 10 that his two branches plan to buy about 200 tonnes of durians from farmers to supply the capital.
One branch is in Por Sen Chey district's Chaom Chao I commune and the other is in Meanchey district's Stung Meanchey commune. Bunleng also owns a durian plantation in Kampot province.
"My target for this year – I want to sell 200 tonnes of durian because I want to boost the market for our locally-planted fruits and take this opportunity to educate people about the value of Cambodian durian," he said.
Coupled with the border restrictions, the closures of Neak Meas and Doeum Kor markets – the largest wholesale markets in the capital – to prevent and control the spread of Covid-19, will improve the local durian market this year, he said.
"I have observed that our locally-farmed durian receives a lot of support from our people. But most sellers import durian from Vietnam and Thailand, most of which are not so good in quality.
“However, durian production in Cambodia focuses on safety and quality because we have more vacant land compared to neighbouring countries," Bunleng said.
He cautioned that neglecting the local durian market would discourage farmers, leading them to quit the agricultural sector.
"I think our country is not yet able to produce agricultural products at lower costs, because we import all our fertilisers and pesticides, and our technology is still limited," he said.
He added that the retail price of durian has remained steady this year at 25,000-28,000 riel ($6.25-$7) per kilogramme.
"I see a strong market in the future for durian exports and it has a lot of support from locals. But if we allow too many imports from neighbouring countries too, it'll lead to farmers losing out on a lot of profit," Bunleng said.
Durian is mostly grown in Kampot, Kampong Cham, Battambang, Koh Kong and Pursat provinces.
Battambang provincial Department of Commerce director Kim Hout said durians produced in the province's Samlot district are some the best among those famously grown in areas such as Kampot and Kampong Cham.
However, "durian from Battambang province's Samlot district is only sold domestically. Usually customers go to the plantations to buy them, while other buy them to resell in Phnom Penh", he said.
According to Hout, the wholesale price of durian in Samlot is hovering between 18,000 and 22,000 riel per kilogramme this year, slightly higher than last year.
"The production of durian this year is less than last year due to climate change, which is not conducive to durian," he said.
Durians of the ‘Monthong' cultivar mature 140-150 days after anthesis, or flowering, while those of the ‘Kanyao' cultivar take 120-135 days to mature, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.