WICHAN TUKWUN turned a crisis into an opportunity when he and his family struck on the freezing of durian and freeze-dried processing of it as ways of countering a plunge in prices for the fruit they grew.
That was in 2007, when the prices for the fresh fruit dropped to just Bt22 a kilogram. With the introduction of the value-added product, they succeeded in doubling the product prices and exports, helping to generate sales of Bt400 million last year.
“We also plan to further expand our overseas markets from the US and China to include South Korea this year, and with the new market that will increase our sales growth into the double digits this year,” Wichan said in an interview with The Nation recently.
Wichan said he and his family grow durians on 20 rai in Chumporn province. After graduating from college, he returned to the family farm, but the price plunge of 2007 forced a rethink in how they managed they the durian business.
“We suffered a large loss in 2007, and that prompted us to find a way recover our business,” he said.
“We then found a way to freeze the durian and distribute it to a manufacturing plant that can sell it for Bt150 per kilogram. Three kilograms of fresh durian can be processed to become one kilogram of the value-added product. That means we can generate a net margin about Bt50 per kilogram on this product.”
Wichan said he refined the method for freeze-dried durian, and this resulted in strong demand, especially from Chinese tourists visiting Thailand. Most of them buy the freeze-dried durian to take back home.
Encouraged by this success, Wichan invested up to Bt16 million to set up a freeze-drying machine to produce the freeze-dried durian, in addition to other fruit.
The company’s investment came from both its own cash holdings and from bank loans.
“Our sales increased from an average of Bt150 million at the end of 2014 to Bt400 million last year, thanks in particular to the strong demand for freeze-dried durian from Chinese tourists,” Wichan said.
After the company managed to more than double its sales within two years, Wichan said the key to success for the family business was to produce what customers want through the use of quality raw materials that lead to a quality finished product.