Coronavirus outbreak gives local durian industry the sniffles

KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 8): The novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) outbreak in China has impacted unexpected victims: Malaysia’s during sellers.

According to a report by Channel News Asia (CNA), local durian farmers say their business have suffered owing to “disruptions to China’s logistics industry, city lockdowns and changes in consumer tastes” stemming from the epidemic.

“Orders have dropped to almost zero over the last two weeks because many Chinese cities are put under lockdown.

“The logistics industry to transport durians have less manpower, and there are major delays to get the products through customs,” Andy Tan, a durian farmer in Segamat, Johor told the Singapore-based broadcaster.

A “durian expert”, Lim Chin Khee revealed to CNA that the prices of the most desired of durians, the Musang King, have dropped from RM60 to RM30 per kg in Raub, Pahang.

“Many of the farmers in Raub and other parts of Malaysia have stopped processing durians to China because they don’t want to take risks,” he said.

“What if the virus situation gets worse? We will have a lot of unwanted durians in cold storage,” Lim added.

He surmised that there are now less durian imports by China as its people will now have “no mood to eat” durians as they are worried about the spread of the virus.

“Durians are a luxury food, and are best enjoyed in happier times. Maybe now is not the best time to eat durians together in big groups,” Lim told CNA.

“Durian buffets” for tourists have also been affected by the virus scare.

A durian farmer told CNA that his durian buffet offering “has seen a 75% fall in the number of visitors since Chinese New Year”.

Health authorities in China have received 3,399 new confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection and registered 86 deaths as at yesterday, Xinhua reported.

With the latest figures, there are now 34,546 infections in the People’s Republic while 722 people have perished since the outbreak.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng has said he will meet with tourism industry stakeholders on Monday, ahead of Putrajaya’s announcement on its economic stimulus package to counter the impact of the virus outbreak, reported The Malaysian Insight today.

“I’ll meet the parties involved in the tourism industry next Monday to discuss the stimulus package.

“We will hold talks, and the action that follows will be decided in a cabinet meeting,” Lim said.

The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC) on Tuesday held its first Tourism Recovery Action Committee meeting to discuss its planned strategies in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

MOTAC said these short- and long-term strategies are set to help Malaysians and industry players face this problem, while ensuring that the sector remains strong.

"We believe that these strategies could boost tourist arrivals in Malaysia from countries other than China, and ensure the industry's stability in the long term," it said in a statement.

On Thursday, The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) called on the government to bring forward its economic stimulus package planned to address the US-China trade war impact if the novel coronavirus outbreak worsens the economic situation.

Its president, Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said the federation believed that the stimulus package would help minimise the impact on various sectors, including the manufacturing, tourism and construction that have been affected by the Wuhan virus and support the overall economic growth.

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