Durian galore at Bangkok festival

business June 19, 2017

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A magnet to strengthen the local economy

In an effort to stimulate the Thai fruits market, the Commerce Ministry is joining with MBK Center in organising the King Fruits Paradise of Thailand: Durian Festival @ Bangkok from June 17 to 29, 2017. The fruit buffet concept has shown itself to be popular among tourists, both Thai and foreign, and the festival is intended as a magnet to boost the market in Thailand’s tropical fruits.

Deputy Commerce Minister Sonthirat Sonthijirawong noted that the fruit festival was in line with the government's Pracharat or state of the people mechanism to create an effective marketing channel for farmers, SMEs and community enterprises. It would also support the government's economic stimulus policy, which places great importance on strengthening the local economy.

The ministry plans to organise markets in 6 provinces namely Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Udon Thani, Songkhla and Chanthaburi. Fruit festivals have already been held in Chiang Mai and Phuket, and Udon Thani is next in line. A gateway to the Greater Mekong Subregion, Udon Thani has been designated as a supplier of organic fruits and vegetables.

In addition to durian from the three eastern provinces (Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat), visitors can experience these kings of fruit that are classified as Geographical Indication (GI) products, namely Monthong from Nonthaburi, Lin Lap Lae (durian from Lap Lae in Uttaradit), Monthong Pa La-U of Prachuap Khiri Khan, and durians from Sisaket, which are grown in areas with volcanic soil and are often referred to as “Volcanic Durians”.

Satit Saisorn, Executive Vice President-Operations at MBK Public Co., Ltd., said that some 2,400 sqm of MBK Avenue in front of MBK Center has been prepared to host the fruit festival. The event is expected to promote the consumption of Thai fruits among locals and foreigners as well as directly support products from fruit growers.

Five buffet rounds are being offered from noon to 9pm every day in the durian zone and tickets are priced at Bt399 per person per round with the dining period limited to 60 minutes. Staff will be on hand in the buffet zone to provide assistance in selecting the durian while other fruits can be selected by the visitors themselves.

Participating visitors can enjoy an all-you can-eat buffet that features a variety of exotic Thai fruits ranging from Monthong durian, mangosteen, mango, rambutan, lychee, watermelon, salak, longkong, pineapple, santol, papaya, jackfruit and pomelo.

In addition to the wide variety of fresh fruits, the buffet also features refreshing coconut water and durian/ripe mango/jackfruit with sticky rice. Drinking water and fruit juice are provided free of charge.

Another zone is given over to a farmers' market offering such fresh fruit as Monthong durians from Chanthaburi, Rayong, Pa La-U of Prachuap Khiri Khan, Lin Lap Lae from Uttaradit, mangosteens, rambutans, mangos, pineapples, santol, watermelon, and salak. Other favourite fruits, both dried and processed, are also available.

Satit added that next year, the MBK Center would upgrade the festival to a larger area in order to offer more fruit and a greater variety. At present, MBK Center welcomes over 14 million visitors a year, with a 50:50 split between local and foreign shoppers.

Speaking about the market prospects of Thai fruits this year, Sonthirat said that despite a 30 per cent increase in durian supply, bringing the total to more than 500,000 metric tonnes, the price would not fluctuate like in the previous years, thanks to the preventive measures put into place and high demand from China.

Sonthirat added the ministry would announce a five-year strategic plan (2017-2021) for the sustainable development of Thai fruits within the next two months. The plan would reinforce the Thai fruit market though a value chain, the aim being to push Thailand forward as one of the most powerful growers of tropical fruit in the world.

The ministry would create a database of total supply and demand of Thai fruits nationwide, marketing strategies, business matching, quality standards and an e-commerce system. In addition, the Commerce Ministry would join with the Science and Technology Ministry in developing develop R&D on Thai fruits in order to preserve the fresh fruits longer and increase value added through innovative products.

Thailand is the world’s top durian producer and exporter. Besides fresh and chilled durian, Thailand is now exporting dried and crispy durian, a favourite snack with some foreigners including the Chinese.

Demand for Thai durian and rambutan remains high in both the domestic and export markets, with total export value this year estimated at Bt30 billion, according to the Office of Agricultural Economics.

“There is a growing supply of fruits due to larger crop areas and higher yields. Therefore, a strategic plan is essential to prevent negative impacts and create future markets. Various tropical fresh fruits are available year round due to the geography and climate of the regions. We can truly call Thai tropical fruits a jewel of Thailand,” concluded Sonthirat.