Thailand heat wave gives Vietnam edge in durian exports to China

By Dat Nguyen   May 26, 2024 | 03:00 pm PT
Thailand heat wave gives Vietnam edge in durian exports to China
Durians at an orchard in the Mekong Delta region. Photo by VnExpress/Manh Khuong
The ongoing heat wave in Thailand might reduce durian production in this country, allowing Vietnam to increase supply to China, Thai industry insiders say.

A heatwave in April and May reduced Thailand’s harvest, which normally commands higher prices than its Vietnamese peers.

In April the country recorded a temperature of 44.2 degrees Celsius, compared to the all-time record of 44.6 degrees last year. So far this year Thailand has recorded 61 people dying over heatstroke, higher than the total number in 2023.

High heat causes the skin to crack or the fibers to dry out in some durians, Sam Sin, development director at S&F Produce Group, a Thai firm that exports durian to China, told SCMP.

In China's Zhejiang province, fruit importer Huang Dapeng mentioned in a WeChat forum that some durians were becoming "overheated," leading to their sale at prices below the market rate.

Farmers reported that the heat is causing durians to ripen more quickly, preventing them from reaching their full size and reducing their market value.

In April, China's import price for Thai durians was US$5.80 per kilogram, according to China’s General Administration of Customs, marginally higher than the overall average of US$5.38 per kilogram. In contrast, Vietnamese durians were priced at US$4.22 per kilogram.

Thai durians exported to China in the first four months of 2024 had lost 49% of their value over the same period last year.

Another concern for Thai durian growers is drought, which could reduce the yields.

The serve weather condition may reduce Thailand’s durian production this year by 42%, or around 540,000 tons, the Nation quoted Aat Pisanwanich, an expert on international economics and adviser to Intelligent Research Consultancy as saying.

Vietnam gains on Thailand

Drought and heatwaves increase durian production costs in Thailand, as farmers face additional expenses to transport water to their farms to sustain their durian trees.

Conversely, Vietnamese exporters, who gained permission to sell fresh durians in China about three years ago, benefit from cost savings by shipping the fruit across a single land border.

This logistical advantage results in lower prices for Vietnamese durians. In April, China's import price for Vietnamese durians was 27% lower than that of Thai durians, at $4.22 per kilogram, according to data from China’s General Administration of Custom

In the first quarter of this year, Vietnam exported 36,800 tonnes of durian to China, compared to just 17,900 tonnes from Thailand, official data show.

Thailand maintained a 66% market share in China during the first four months of this year. But Vietnam’s share by value rose by 82% in the period, according to Chinese customs data.

Dang Phuc Nguyen, general secretary of Vietnam Fruits & Vegetables Association, said that farmers in the southern region have been successful in applying new techniques in growing durian.

"Durian is a strong advantage for Vietnam in competing for the China market. There are times when Vietnamese sellers are the only ones with supply", he told Thanh Nien newspaper.

Last year China bought $2.1 billion worth of durian from Vietnam, but the figure can reach as high as $3 billion this year, he added.

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