Early-harvest scandal pushes up durian prices in Pattaya

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Fears over this spring’s “durian scandal” appear to have borne fruit, as Pattaya-area merchants are plucking near-record prices for the pungent fruit after farmers across the country were caught harvesting crops early to constrict supply.

A late June check of Pattaya-area markets found durians selling for up to 150 baht a kilogram, prices that put some shoppers off more than the fruit’s smell. Vendors bucking the trend and selling near wholesale prices were attracting many new customers.

Durian seller Worasak Wongdeephumidol said customers are grumbling about the prices, but most are still buying.Durian seller Worasak Wongdeephumidol said customers are grumbling about the prices, but most are still buying.

The high prices come almost three months after Rayong, Chantaburi and Trat authorities launched surprise warehouse inspections and jailed both farmers and traders caught harvesting durians too early. Agricultural officials worried publicly that the under-ripe fruit tasted bad and that, if shipped abroad, would diminish the popularity of one of Thailand’s signature exports.

The early harvests, however, also took a larger-than-normal supply of durian off the market during the peak summer season. Wholesalers faced with constricted supply found it easier to raise prices.

Pattaya durian vendor Worasak Wongdeephumibol, 40, said durian has been harder to find and his margins have shrunk by as much as 20 baht per kilogram.

Long-stemmed durians were selling for 150 baht per kilogram in Pattaya markets, while Chanee and Mongthong varieties were retailing for 40-70 baht per kilogram. He said customers are grumbling about the prices, but most are still buying.

Worasak admitted that, despite the harvesting scandal, some types of durian are still in abundant supply. Their sweeter taste may be comparing favorably to fruit harvested early in the growing season.

In Naklua, prices are similar, but the vendors doing the best business are ones selling at under-market prices.