See More on Facebook

Culture and society, Curiosity

In search of durians…in Australia!

Very few compelling reasons exist for Malaysians to visit Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory, unless its for Durian.


Written by

Updated: December 16, 2018

Most of the time, it’s hot in Darwin … and I mean blazing hot and dry. And coming from where we do, there is barely a need to holiday in a destination that has worse weather than ours.

Even AirAsia, which used to fly there, has completely given up on that destination. Darwin isn’t on Malaysia Airlines’ radar either.

China’s Donghai Airlines, which began its direct flight from Shenzhen to Darwin in August, now records disappointingly low numbers.

Four months after the direct link began, the flights are often less than half full. In September, apparently only 382 passengers flew there, or 44% capacity, while 237 passengers flew outbound, equating to just 27% capacity.

The biggest, closest tourist attraction is Ayers Rock at Alice Springs, and that’s 1,496km away – equal to a 16-hour drive or a two-hour flight.

My Australian friends who live in Melbourne thought I had lost the plot when I told them I was going to Darwin, and worse, in December, when the weather is at its most unforgiving – scorching sun in the day and thunderstorms and rain in the evenings.

“Why are you going to Darwin? I know you have announced your retirement as the CEO, but for heaven’s sake, Darwin is smaller than Kajang,” said my friend.

He isn’t wrong. Darwin City is quite deserted at any time of day, and I arrived on a weekday.

No wonder my Aussie friends who have never visited Darwin, had no intention of joining me, except for two Melbourne-based Malaysians who were drawn by a truly valid reason – Darwin durians!

Durian hunting in Darwin, Australia.

Like me, they are durian fanatics, too, and were keen to find out if our Musang King can hold a candle to or trump the Kangaroo King!

Australia’s largest durian farm can be found in Darwin and is run by the Siah family, who owns Tropical Primary Products.

The Siahs, who moved to Australia from Semenyih, Selangor, more than 30 years ago, have earned national attention – if not international recognition – for their huge durian farm.

They already have more than 2,500 mature durian trees – averaging over 20 years – on 24 ha of land. At least 35 tons of the produce is available in many parts of Australia.

The orchard itself is a sprawling 202 ha, with jackfruit, cempedak, pomelo, mango and jambu air trees, and the Siahs are now trying their luck with langsat trees.

According to Siah Han Shiong, who runs the farm, I was a little late for durian season as it starts in October and ends in November.

My heart sank when he told me that but fortunately, he stored some durians – the whole fruit, and some packages – in the refrigerator. So, we got to sample their HEW1, a Malaysian variety which the family had grown in Semenyih. It looks like Thai durian but its taste and texture are very much of a Malaysian variety.

The durians were creamy, sweet and tasty, and richly yellow in colour.

durians

Sweet and juicy cempedak.

I’d like to think that our Musang King, black thorn or red prawn varieties are more outstanding but then, the comparison may be unfair because I only tasted the few available fruits. So, it would be more appropriate for me to make comparisons during peak season in Darwin.

It was an enriching experience nonetheless, since most Malaysians would never fathom durians to be growing healthily Down Under.

According to Siah, their main customers are Asians, especially Malaysians, Singaporeans, Indonesians, Filipinos and Vietnamese, who live in the main Australian cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Pleasingly, the family knew where to locate retailers who could sell the durians from their farm.

“I think we’ve perfected the growing of durian in a non-tropical environment, which has been challenging in a place like the Northern Territory,” Siah said.

“We’ve worked out what nutrition is required and how to make sure the trees survive the dry season here. The colder weather hammers the tree and you sometimes think, ‘Why am I trying to grow durian here?,’ but when the season arrives, it’s a good reward,” he said, in an interview on the radio show, ABC Rural Country Hour recently.

Siah said that while his family would harvest several more tonnes of durian this year compared to 2017, it would still be very easy to sell the bumper crop.

“At the moment, we’re really only competing against frozen imports, so to produce fresh durian, which actually has a smell about it, we know that once consumers find it, there’s a real market for it.”

The HEW1 variety of durian is currently selling at A$27 (RM81.50) a kilogram, with the average durian weighing between 2kg and 4kg.

There is a growing demand for the King of Fruits in Australia, but the supply is limited because of a relatively smaller number of commercial growers, mostly from Queensland.

But Siah’s Lambell’s Lagoon farm has been getting the most exposure because of his clever use of social media, including a video he made which has garnered much traction. Regular updates by ABC Rural Country Hour has kept the fruit in the forefront of the minds of Australians, too.

His durians are still not ready for export, but don’t underestimate farmers like the Siahs in Australia.

Likewise, who would have thought that the Aussies could be selling mangoes by the truckloads, and better ones from what we get here, too?

The whacky hunt for the Australian durians was certainly worth this excursion, and certainly an eye-opening one. Unlike Malaysia, there are huge tracts of readily available land for farmers to grow these spiky fruits there.

I would hate to see the Kangaroo King “out run” the Musang King in the future, but hey, everything’s fair in the fight for the ultimate title of the King of Fruits.

BY WONG CHUN WAI



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


The Star
About the Author: The Star is an English-language newspaper based in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Culture and society, Curiosity

S. Korea grapples with gender discrimination in workplace

Despite it’s high economic developments, critics say that South Korea has to improve workplace equality. South Korea has seen its female employment index improve steadily over the past 10 years, but continues to struggle with gender equality when it comes to parental leave and consequent career breaks, data showed Monday. Unlike in most developed economies which tend to see the employment rate of women in their 40s peak and start declining in the 50s, Korea has seen women in their late 30s and early 40s — the prime age for childbirth and childcare — being pushed out of the labor market. All seven of the so-called 30-50 club count


By The Korea Herald
October 22, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity

World gathers to mark Emperor’s enthronement

Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony to take place on Tuesday. The main enthronement proclamation ceremony, one of the rituals to mark the Emperor’s accession to the throne, is to be held Tuesday at the Imperial Palace in the presence of about 2,000 guests, including representatives from 183 countries, the United Nations and the European Union. The Emperor will declare his accession at the Sokuirei-Seiden-no-gi ceremony. The about 400 foreign guests will include Britain’s Prince Charles, other royalty and heads of state. They will be joined by representatives of various fields in Japan, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the heads of the administrative, legislative and judicial branches, Diet members and governors. Sadaharu Oh, chairman of the company operating the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks; ninth-dan shogi player Yoshiharu Habu; and Susumu Nakanishi, a profe


By The Japan News
October 22, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity

King Rama X strips ‘noble consort’ of her Royal titles

King Rama X has stripped Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi of her “Chao Khun Phra” or noble consort title as well as her military rank. The Royal Gazette published on Monday (October 21) that His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua had also recalled her Royal insignia, owing to her undesirable behaviour as a Royal servant and being disloyal to the Royal Family. The statement said Sineenat had been against the appointment of Queen Suthida and had given many orders under the name of Their Majesties for her personal benefit. She also reportedly engaged in activities without His Majesty’s approval, which caused confusion among the public.


By The Nation (Thailand)
October 22, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity

Religious violence in Bangladesh leaves 4 dead, dozens injured

The violence was sparked by social media posts. At least four people were killed and more than a hundred others injured yesterday as religious zealots clashed with police in Bhola’s Borhanuddin upazila over a hate conversation spread through Facebook and its messenger. At one stage of the clash that broke out around 10:30am, law enforcers had to fire shot


By Daily Star
October 21, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity

Chinese TV drama to air on Kenya’s national television

China has expanded aggressively into Africa. Kenya Broadcasting Corporation on Saturday signed a partnership agreement with China’s National Radio and Television Administration that will see the national broadcaster air a popular Chinese TV drama, Feather Flies to the Sky. The drama is a 55-episode series that will be aired by national broadcaster Channel one TV until June next year. Speaking during the launch event in Nairobi, Kenya, Dr Naim Bilal, the managing director of Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, said the TV series has been dubbed in Standard Kiswahili, one of the official languages in Kenya, to make it appealing to many people. “We have reviewed the series, looked at its quality and content as well as the quality of the language, and we are fully satisfied that it’s a drama that is going to entertain Kenyans,” Bilal said. He sa


By China Daily
October 21, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity

Rationalising climate change

The first step to addressing the alarming problem of climate change is creating awareness, which authors and scientists are tirelessly attempting to inculcate in people. Franz Kafka (1883- 1924), a Bohemian novelist who is considered a major literary figure of the 20th century, wrote, “There is infinite hope… but not for us.” His words tell us of the characters in his narratives who embark on various ventures, but seldom succeed. Today, writers highlight these words of Kafka to refer not to Kafka’s characters, but to humanity’s future with reference to climate change. Some of these writers, in present times, similarly project that the hope for a greener planet is “not for us.” We are informed of mankind’s anguish concerning the problem of climate change. The truth of the matter is that a lot has already occurred, with side effects of climate change being felt the world over. Even a fraction of


By The Statesman
October 17, 2019