thai durian operators in a prickly spot as the authorities urge industry to grow - Thai durian operators in a prickly spot as the authorities urge industry to grow

Like many others, her family farm Baan Suan Ratchanat is in Chanthaburi, which is one of Thailand’s key fruit provinces, like Rayong and Trat. In these north-eastern provinces, durian season is typically during the months of April to June.

The larger north-eastern region accounts for about half of Thailand’s total fruit production.

With durian wholesale prices averaging about 140 baht per kg this season, hitting 200 baht at one point, the fruit has proven to be a “golden” cash crop for Thailand, and numerous players have been clamouring to get some skin in the game.

Across Thailand, durian farmland has spiked from just 96,000ha in 2012 to 152,000ha in 2019, according to the Office of Agricultural Economics.

The agriculture authorities have forecast the production of 1.4 million tonnes of durian this year, up 17 per cent from the previous year.

Driven by durians’ strong export demand and high returns, almost 80 per cent of farmers in Chanthaburi have changed from planting rubber trees to durian plants, said environmentalist Somnuck Jongmeewasin, noting a similar trend in other major crop industries like cassava.

“I do think there is the risk of a durian bubble,” said Dr Somnuck, who is also research director of the Eastern Economic Corridor Watch, an advocacy group.