When you stop by at top shopping malls or other culinary centres in Singapore, South Korea, Australia or Japan and pick durian ice cream -- favourite dessert for many because of its unique state and smell -- you may never think that its basic ingredient was in fact exported from North Sumatra.
North Sumatra Crop and Horticulture Agency programme subdivision head Yusfahri confirmed that at least 10 countries -- Japan, South Korea, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, the Philippines, Australia, and Brazil -- routinely imported durians from the province in the last seven years.
Of the 10, Malaysia imports the biggest volume of durians, followed by Japan, Vietnam, Brazil and Thailand. The data from 2017 show that Malaysia imported 901.21 kilograms of durians, Japan imported 480.17 kg, Vietnam 371.90 kg, Brazil 284.20 kg and Thailand 240.60 kg.
Yusfahri said the exported durians were already processed because most of them would be manufactured into ice cream. He said many more Asian countries as well as those in South America had expressed their interest in importing durians from North Sumatra, yet as the supply was limited the province so far could only meet the demand from these 10 countries.
"We are overwhelmed with orders. The problem is in the supply because most durians are still marketed domestically," Yusfahri told The Jakarta Post, last week.
He said durians from North Sumatra had a distinctive flavor compared with durians from other regions. They taste stronger, making them more popular among durian lovers.
Durians in North Sumatra are harvested twice a year, at the beginning of the year and in mid-year. The provincial crop agency records that North Sumatra produced 64,659 tons of durians in 2017 and as of the third quarter of last year it had produced 17,961 ton of them.
Yusfahri said North Sumatra durians were ranked the fifth in terms of production in Indonesia after East Java with 227,952 tons, Central Java with 91,385 tons, West Sumatra with 74,540 tons, and West Java with 66,314 tons. The country's total production of durians in 2017 was 795,204 tons.
According to Yusfahri, the government has been trying to increase the production of North Sumatra durians by distributing durian seedlings.
Last year, for example, the North Sumatra Crop and Horticulture Agency distributed 3,000 durian seedlings to Padang Lawas, Asahan and South Tapanuli regencies. The central government also funded the distribution of 14,000 seedlings in Langkat regency.
Dairi regency administration secretary Sebastianus Tinambunan said the regency contributed the biggest durian production of 166,900 quintals. He said there were 81,600 durian trees in Dairi, each of which could produce an average of 204.53 kg.
Lukman, a durian trader in Medan, North Sumatra, said his buyers came from various provinces and even from abroad. He said he could sell up to 300 durians a day. "Sometimes, I cannot meet all the demand, especially during weekends," said Lukman, who sells the fruit in the Helvetia area.
Each good quality durian is sold for between Rp 10,000 (71 US cents) and Rp 25,000 during harvest time and between Rp 50,000 and Rp 70,000 during non-harvest time, he said, adding that most of the durians he sold came from Dairi regency.
"The price doesn't matter here as long as it tastes good," said Lukman, adding that his durians are always sold out regardless of the price.