In the early hours of the morning, the vibrant Haijixing Market, hailed as the largest wholesale fruit market in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, thrived with an animated atmosphere as people flocked in droves.
Cold-chain container trucks loaded with fresh durians made regular stops at the bustling durian stalls, with eager buyers arriving early to secure the finest fruits available.
Thai durians, typically imported in large quantities, flood the Chinese market from April onwards, ushering in a peak season that spans from May to August.
In Nanning, the capital of Guangxi, a subsidiary of Charoen Pokphand Group organized a series of exhibitions that captivated visitors with a range of alluring events. One of the highlights was the unveiling and on-site sale of fresh Thai golden pillow durians known for their exquisite sweetness and soft texture, which attracted numerous buyers.
"During the event, we sold an average of over 100 durians daily. The company plans to host a 'Durian Festival' and other activities to promote sales further," said Liang Shuting, who works with the company.
She added that the company has meticulously optimized its durian supply chain management and stringent product standards have been implemented to ensure the taste of durians.
Since 2019, durian has become the most imported fruit in the country. In 2022, China imported 825,000 tonnes of durian, of which 780,000 tonnes came from Thailand, according to customs data.
Guan Caixia, who has been running a Thai durian business for two decades, has witnessed the durian trade growth in China.
Few people bought or sold durian in the market in 2003, she recalled, adding that in recent years, the number of durian merchants as well as durian sales soared.
Data from the Haijixing Market shows that there are currently 32 durian wholesalers in the market. Last year, 24,000 tonnes of durian were sold in the wholesale channel. As of May 5 this year, 17,000 tonnes of durian have been sold, which marked a fourfold increase over the same period last year.
"Durians from eastern Thailand have emerged as the top-selling fruit and they boast exceptional flavor. Our daily procurement of durians typically amounts to approximately five to six containers, with peak demand driving us to acquire as many as 10 containers during those busy periods," said Mo Jiaming, general manager of Youxianyuan agricultural technology company in Guangxi.
Mo's company is a major Chinese importer of Southeast Asian fruits and has formed the ASEAN fruit supply chain of durian, coconut and longan over the years. His company supplies durian to Walmart and Pagoda in Nanning and Hema Fresh, Alibaba's fresh-food chain, in south China.
The company's durian imports have increased nearly tenfold in the past five years. "We plan to import about 15,000-20,000 tonnes of fresh durians this year, and even 25,000 tonnes if the product quality is stable," Mo said.
According to He Yan, deputy general manager of Sam's Club in Nanning, durians are very popular here and fresh durians are often sold out in half a day.
Since the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) came into effect, regional economic and trade cooperation has significantly intensified. An increasing number of agricultural products from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have gained entry into the Chinese market.
In July 2022, fresh Vietnamese durian was officially allowed to enter the Chinese market. In January 2023, the General Administration of Customs began to allow the import of fresh durians from the Philippines. Currently, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines are the main suppliers of durian to China.
In recent years, a cross-border logistics system has been developed and intra-regional trade facilitation has been enhanced by the construction of the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor in western China, the opening of the China-Laos Railway and the implementation of RCEP.
In the city of Chongzuo, situated on the China-Vietnam border in Guangxi, a steady flow of cross-border vans laden with ASEAN fruits permeates the Chinese market on a daily basis. Meanwhile, at the bustling Qinzhou Port, a pivotal hub along the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, foreign trade vessels carrying an assortment of fruits, including durians and mangosteens, arrive frequently, delivering cargo from ASEAN countries to inland regions via efficient rail-sea intermodal transport.
"As the pandemic has gradually eased and customs clearance has been continuously improved, the pace of durian delivery to the Chinese market has accelerated," said Guan Caixia.
"During the epidemic period, it took up to two weeks to transport durians from Thailand to the Chinese market by land. Now, it can be delivered in five to six days," Guan added.
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