PETALING JAYA: ‘Tis the season for durians again, and Malaysians are going crazy for it – proven by the number of online searches for the thorny fruit.

According to data on Google, searches for the word “durian” have been climbing rapidly in Malaysia since last month.

But the love for durians is also across the border – Singapore is the top country in the world where the word “durian” was most popularly searched out of the total online searches within its nation in the past five years.

In Malaysia, the interest level in the term “durian” (ranked from a scale of zero to 100) was at 16 on May 12.

But it shot up to 62 on June 23 and continues to rise.

Malaysian Fruit Farmers Association president Datuk Lawrence Ting Siew Haw said the spike in online searches for durians coincided with the durian season from June to August in Malaysia.

“This pattern reflects the high consumer interest and demand for durian in such times.

“People seek to purchase and enjoy the fruit when it is most abundant and fresh,” he said.

On Wednesday (June 26), industry players reassured the public that Malaysia’s increased exports to China will not lead to price hikes for kampung durians.

Malaysia’s durian production was also self-sufficient to meet local demand.

However, farmers say the King of Fruits faces some hurdles due to uncertain weather, which could affect the price, production and quality of some durian varieties.

“The price depends on the durian variety, and of course, kampung durian is always quite cheap in the market.

“But the uncertain weather is the biggest challenge for us because it affects production.

“To address the situation, we have improved our planting process by using our skills and fertilizer,” said Ting.

As such, there will be more durian supply in the market in the next few months compared to the current yield, he added.

An international love affair

Surpassing even Malaysia, Singapore was the No.1 country where the word “durian” was most frequently searched out of the total online searches within its location from June 2019 to June this year.

Malaysia came in second, according to data from Google Trends.

Here are the top 10 countries on the lookout for durian, based on a scale from zero to 100.

The number 100 refers to the location with the most popularity according to Google searches.

Which country searched for “Durian” the most? by Meikeng

Top Fruits Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Dr Tan Sue Yee said demand will grow, not only in South-East Asian countries but Western countries as well.

“Our biggest market is still China, followed by Singapore and Hong Kong.

“However, there has been a significant increase in demand from countries like the United States and Canada, compared with the past few years.

“So, while Asians love durian, Westerners are starting to accept and appreciate the fruit,” said Dr Tan, who heads the company which deals with farming and exporting durian.

The search continues

Apart from the word “durian”, online users from various countries also searched for related terms.

The most popular related search query to “durian” is “makan durian” (“eat durian” in Bahasa Malaysia) in the past five years – perhaps indicating the people’s desire for the sweet, yellow flesh.

In second place is “fruit durian”, followed by “buah durian” (durian fruit) and “harga durian” (durian price).

Musang King, a popular variety of durian, also appeared as the fifth and sixth most common related query, with users searching for “musang king” and “durian musang king”, respectively.

Prickly issues for the durian

There have been reports of cheaper durian, but the situation ahead is tricky – no thanks to the erratic weather.

“This season’s farm price for durian remains higher than last year,” said Dr Tan.

This was mainly due to lower fruit production so far this year, which drove up current prices.

“Global warming has affected not only Malaysia, but other Asean countries that plant durian,” he said.

It doesn’t help that there has been sudden rain in the afternoon that causes durian flowers to drop off extensively, affecting the growth of fruits, said Dr Tan.

Agreeing, Ting said the hot and uncertain weather has significantly affected durian yield and even quality this year.

“Soaring temperatures and irregular rainfall have stressed the trees, leading to reduced flowering and fruiting,” he said.

Ting said durian season in Malaysia typically occurs from June to August, although it can vary slightly depending on the region and weather conditions.

“While some areas might still produce a reasonable amount, the overall production is expected to be lower,” he said.

The high temperatures earlier this year also caused the “burnt tip” phenomenon, where the durian flesh turns dark brown due to uneven fruit ripening.

“There have been numerous reports of ‘burnt tip’ durian this year, caused by the prolonged hot weather.

“The heat stress affects the fruit’s development, leading to the characteristic browning of the flesh.

“This issue has been more prevalent this season due to the extreme weather conditions,” he said.

Nevertheless, Dr Tan said this issue was temporary, and was expected to stabilise by the end of the month, with farms stepping up to manage the situation.

“Durian season began in late May in Penang, followed by Johor and Pahang in early June.

“This season will last until September,” he said, adding that durian production was expected to improve later.

Does the durian still rule?

Previously, it was reported that the pineapple became the No.1 fruit in Malaysia, in terms of having the biggest production volume compared with others.

The tangy fruit has retained its top spot for another year, based on estimated data from the Agriculture Department for 2023.

A total of 553,348 tonnes of pineapple were harvested last year, followed by 471,672 tonnes of durian.

On pineapples being tops, Ting said the rise of the fruit, surpassing the durian, indicates a shift in agricultural focus and possibly consumer preferences.

“Pineapple is known for its versatility, longer shelf life, and steady production rates compared with the more seasonal and weather-dependent durian.

“The demand for pineapple may have increased due to these factors, along with its popularity as a fresh fruit and ingredient in various products,” he added.

Here’s a look at where our main fruits are grown:

Nevertheless, durian lovers need not fret – the King of Fruits still rules when it comes to generating revenue among the main fruits produced in Malaysia.

It leads the basket of fruits by a mile – the total net income from durian came up to RM16.25mil, according to data in 2022.

The second biggest income-earner were our juicy mangosteens, which garnered a net income of RM1.47mil.

For durians, the profits were from varieties like Musang King, Premium Kampung and other premium types.

Looking ahead, the demand for the durian is expected to increase, with school and summer holidays kicking off in July and August for countries like China.

“We are expecting a huge number of tourists during this period, especially with the visa-free travel from China and India,” Dr Tan said.

Currently, China and India tourists are granted visa-free entry to Malaysia for up to 30 days until Dec 31 this year.

Following a recent agreement with China, Malaysia will extend the visa exemption for Chinese citizens until the end of 2026.