A freight train carrying containers of durians and other tropical fruits arrives at Kunming East Railway Station in Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan Province, April 19, 2023. (Photo by Qin Wenlu/Xinhua)
KUNMING, May 25 (Xinhua) -- Picky gourmets can now tickle their taste buds with fresher durians as transporting the fruit to China has become easier for exporters in Thailand, all thanks to the China-Laos Railway.
As durians enter their peak season for ripeness and sales, Liu Yudong, an importer of Southeast Asian fruits in southwest China's Yunnan Province, anticipates a productive year with decent profits.
"The durians are sold at the highest price in nearly five years this year and we don't have to worry about sales at all," Liu said, adding that a crate of durians weighing about 17 kg was sold for about 500 yuan (about 71 U.S. dollars) in the previous years, but this year the price has soared to around 800 yuan.
According to Liu, the transportation of durians is a race against time. "The faster, the better."
Liu's business was propelled by the China-Laos Railway, which connects China's Kunming with Vientiane in Laos and started operation in 2021. A non-stop fruit delivery service via the railway was launched in December 2022.
The transportation time for Thai durians to reach China has significantly decreased to about three days this year owing to the utilization of the China-Laos Railway.
Liu began transporting durians through the China-Laos Railway in mid-April this year. He explained that due to the unpredictable nature of road and sea transportation, he used to import only mid-ripe durians. "There were instances when we had to discard an entire truckload of durians due to delays in transportation."
"Now we can import durians with a higher grade of maturity as problems in transportation and clearance procedures have been eliminated thanks to the railway," he said.
Shao Yichao, 64, is a seasoned durian checker in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan and a key distribution hub for imported fruits. His expertise lies in evaluating the ripeness of durians and determining their subsequent destination based on factors such as the grade of maturity and estimated delivery time.
With eight years of experience under his belt, Shao handles some 1,000 durians daily, and this year he has seen more Thai durians harvested at a more mature stage thanks to the shortened delivery time.
"This year, the quality of durians has been exceptional, boasting a delightful sweetness and a delectable richness in flavor," Shao said.
According to the Ministry of Commerce of Thailand, China was the largest export market for Thai durians in 2022, accounting for more than 96 percent of the total export volume, with a total value of 3.09 billion U.S. dollars.
According to Liu, in April, from 70,000 to 80,000 durians were sold every day in Yunnan alone.
In addition to durians, many other tropical delights from Southeast Asia have also enjoyed the cross-border railway services.
Data from the China Railway Kunming Group Co., Ltd. showed that, as of May 10, a total of 17,200 tonnes of imported mangosteens, durians, longans and other fruits had been transported by the China-Laos Railway since December 2022. ■