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In Thailand, Selling Unripe Sầu Riêng Could Land You in Jail

Harvesting durians before they are ripe in Thailand can land a first-time offender in jail for up to three years, while recidivists face even stricter sentences.

Thai authorities reminded farmers and middlemen last week that it is illegal to harvest durians and sell them before they are sufficiently ripe. The country's penal code states that anyone who deceives a buyer about the origin, nature, quality or quantity of durian will be jailed for up to three years and/or fined a maximum of THB60,000 (VND40.7 million). Further fines of THB100,000 await those who falsify information about a product.

Thailand is a major exporter of durian, and the industry's output is expected to expand to 740,000 tons this year from only 240,000 tons in 2021. Maintaining the country's reputation for supplying top-tier durian is of the utmost importance, which helps explain why the government is reminding growers and sellers not to cut corners to maximize profits at the expense of the fruit's transcendent flavor.

Recently, Thailand's Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry instructed the Department of Agriculture Extension and provincial agricultural offices in several important durian-growing areas to investigate illegal unripe durian harvesting. To ensure the fruits are sufficiently developed, according to official standards, they must contain a certain percentage of moisture: at least 27% for the Kradum variety, 30% for Chanee and Puang Manee, and 32% for Mon Thong.

Vietnam has no specific laws governing the selling of unripe durian, but it is an issue here as well. Farmers across the nation have been caught using dangerous chemicals to artificially develop immature durians to reduce growing time and thus increase profits. Such surreptitious procedures result in the fruits containing harmful heavy metals that endanger consumers. Fears of tainted durians threaten to frighten local purchasers and erode buyer confidence here and abroad.

[Photos: Durians on sale at chợ cũ in District 1.]