By Teo Wan Gek
Go north for that durian fix, say travel agencies.
For a fixed fee of less than $60, durian lovers can eat an unlimited number of the King of Fruits across the Causeway.
During this year's durian season, from last month to August, travel agencies are arranging one-day tours to Malaysia for a durian buffet at the plantations.
Assistant manager Richard Lim from WTS Travel said this is the first time it is selling the $55 tour, which began on May 2 and will end by late August.
'The response has been overwhelming. So far, we have had departures every Saturday and a total of 1,400 participants to date, with another 400 confirmed participants in late June, July and August,' he said.
Chan Brothers Travel, which launched its durian tour last August, expects to do better this year.
Ms Ivy Tan, a director, said: 'We had over 100 bookings last season and we are expecting more than double the bookings this year.'
She added: 'For just $59 per adult, Singaporeans can indulge in two favourite pastimes: shopping and eating, especially unlimited portions of durian.'
Ms Serene Lim, chief executive officer at MaxPac Travel, said good quality durians can be had in Johor. 'We have many groups going for the premium grade durians at the Segamat plantations,' she said.
But some durian sellers in Singapore pooh-poohed the tours.
Mr Goh Kwee Leng, 58, owner of 717 Trading, has been in the business for more than 40 years.
He said: 'We used to have such tours, but stopped them due to security reasons. The quality of the durians there is also not guaranteed. Customers who have gone on such tours tell me they were very disappointed with the quality at the plantations.
'All the good durians have already been shipped to Singapore.'
This year, the popular favourites are Cat Mountain King, D24 and D101.
Due to a huge supply of durians, the prices of these premium favourites have dropped. Last year, Cat Mountain King was sold at $15 to $20 a kg, but now the price has dropped to between $10 and $15 a kg.
Mr Zhu Bin, 30 , a worker at Metro Trading in Geylang Lorong 21 said: 'Last year, we could sell one durian for 50 cents. Now we have to sell them at 20 cents.'
Business has suffered too. 'We used to be able to sell till 4am, but now we close shop around 1am as there are no customers,' he said.
Mr Robin Neo, owner of Kean Lye Fruit Trading at Upper Serangoon Road, echoed the same sentiments.
'It's quiet this year due to the recession. My profits have gone down by 20 per cent to 30 per cent,' he said.
'Prices will fall even further when a new supply of durians from Malaysia comes in.'
Although profits have gone down, Mr Goh said he still sees as many customers during this season. He sees groups of 'durian parties' outside his shop and can have up to 300 customers a night.
He has noticed an interesting phenomenon too. 'The more expensive durians are the ones that finish selling first. People are still willing to pay more for quality,' he said.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.
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