Covid and Conflict Complicate Fruit Supply Across Southeast Asia

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China's zero-covid policy and Russia's war in Ukraine have disrupted fruit supply in Asia
China's zero-covid policy and Russia's war in Ukraine have disrupted fruit supply in Asia (Photo: Reuters).

China’s zero-Covid policy for imports has disrupted the Thai exportation of durian crops, while coffee farmers in Vietnam have resorted to growing avocados and durians due to the high cost of fertilizer amidst the conflict in Ukraine.

Fruit brought into China is being subjected to strenuous Covid inspections, and these slow inspections are causing some highly perishable durian crops to rot. Many rotten durians are being sent back to their growers in Thailand, who are suffering huge profit losses.

Thai farmers aren’t able to profitably sell their crops domestically, either, due to low prices caused by the pile-up of unexportable fruit. 

Last month some 40 tonnes of durian, along with 20 tonnes of coconuts, were transported from Thailand to China via the Laos-China Railway, however, China issued a warning to Thailand late last month that it could face an export ban if it is unable to resolve the problem of Covid-19 found on packaging.

Meanwhile in Vietnam, the world’s most productive grower of robusta coffee, many coffee growers are turning away from coffee farming as a result of high fertilizer prices.

Growing crops like durian, black pepper, and avocado have helped some coffee farmers cope with the effect that the soaring cost of fertilizer has had on their coffee profits.

Still, many coffee farmers are cutting back on their coffee trees, which will likely lead to a drop in overall coffee production in the future.

Creative efforts can help sell crops in this difficult financial climate, as evidenced by the teenage Thai rapper Milli, who caused a spike in international mango sales last month by eating a bowl of mango sticky rice on stage at the American music festival Coachella.

A mango grower told Nikkei Asia “We admire her because her show saved us [.] We also plan to send her a gift basket of mangoes.”