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

Modi defends citizenship decision

PM Modi says it has nothing to do with Indian Muslims. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, that unity in diversity is integral to India while addressing ‘Aabhar Rally’ at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan today to kick start Bharatiya Janata Party’s Delhi Assembly Elections campaign slated for early next year, amid protests in Delhi and all over the country against the contentious Citizenship Act and the National Register of Citizenship(NRC). Modi raised slogan of ‘vividhta me ekta, Bharat ki visheshta’ (Unity in diversity is India’s speciality). PM Modi while giving his party and government’s view on CAA and NRC said, “Muslims being misled, I have always ensured that documents will never come in way of development schemes and their beneficiaries.” Citizenship law and NRC have nothing to do with Indian Muslims or with Indian citizens, he clarified. “We have never asked


By The Statesman
December 23, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity

The Chinese version

Muhammad Amir Rana asks what is the Chinese version of Islam.  TENSIONS between China and the US have escalated after the House of Representative’s Uighur Human Rights Policy Act, 2019. The move is of a piece with the allegations of many international media and human rights organisations that China is persecuting the Uighur community and violating their rights — allegations that Beijing has denied. Calling the US action a political move aimed at damaging its international image, China says it is running a deradicalisation programme to mainstream its communities. Read: Amid global outcry, China defends internment camps of minorities in Xinjiang The Chinese claim has not been verified by independent sources and mystery shrouds its deradicalisation or re-education programme. China needs to demonstra


By Asia News Network
December 16, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity

India under Modi is moving systematically with a supremacist agenda, says PM Imran

Imran Khan made the comments after India passed a controversial citizenship requirement. Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday that India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been moving systematically with a Hindu supremacist agenda. The prime minister was referencing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill passed by India’s upper house amid protests on Wednesday. The bill will let the Indian government grant citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants who entered India from three neighbouring countries before 2015 — but not if they are Muslim. Modi’s government — re-elected in May and under pressure over a slowing economy — says Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan are excluded from the legislation because they do not face discrimination in those countries. Taking to Twitter, Prime Minister I


By Asia News Network
December 13, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity

Nepal moves up in Human Development Index but still lags behind in South Asia

Nepal’s human development index of 0,579 indicates that people are living longer, are more educated and have greater incomes, according to the Human Development Report. Despite global progress in tackling poverty, hunger and disease, a ‘new generation of inequalities’ indicates that many societies are not working as they should and Nepal is not an exception, according to a new human development report released on Tuesday. The old inequalities were based on access to health services and education whereas the new generation of inequalities is based on technology, education and the climate, according to the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report. “Previously, we talked about wealth as a major driver for inequality. Now, countries like Nepal are in another inequality trap and that concerns


By The Kathmandu Post
December 12, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity

Taiwan among top 10 study destinations for U.S. students

Thailand and Singapore among other Asian destinations. China welcomed the highest number of U.S. students last year, followed by Japan and India in second and third places, respectively, according to a recent survey about exchange students in Asia. South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan, and Indonesia rounded up the top 10 list of the most popular Asian countries among U.S. students. According to AsiaExchange, “The high level of education, low exposure to crime, economic freedom and good healthcare system are a few examples of why Taiwan is ranked 2nd on the annual Global Peace Index.” It’s also very safe to live in Taiwan, as crime rates are low, the Website stressed, noting that Taiwan’s focus on human rights, gender equality and freedom of speech has made it a top destination for education. Taiwan, whose institutions are strong and reliable, has remained la


By Warren Fernandez
December 12, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity

Relentless against child marriage

Farida Yesmin wins an award for her work to prevent child marriage. It was a rainy day in July 2018. As the evening fell, someone called Farida Yesmin, upazila nirbahi officer of Netrakona’s Barhatta, over her phone and informed her that a child marriage was about to take place in Kawrashi, a remote village in the upazila near the Bangladesh-India border. Farida immediately called the police and left for the village in the dark of the night amid rain and thunderstorms. The road was so bad that at one point, the UNO and her team had to leave their vehicles. They walked about two kilometres to find the girl’s home. “As we reached the spot, a local leader tried to stop us. But despite all these hurdles, we were able to prevent the marriage,” Farida said while recalling how she and her team stopped a staggering 59 child marriages after she joined as the Barhatta UNO on May 9, 2017. She


By Daily Star
December 2, 2019