Why Are There Laws Against Durian In Thailand?

credit: Yay

Durian is a type of tropical fruit that can be a hit or miss for many people. This is primarily due to its distinctive smell that seizes control of any space where they reside. Thailand’s laws combat this, so let’s discuss them and see how they impact your travel plans.

There are laws in Thailand against durian because of their perishable nature, smell, and monetary value. They easily attract pests and disease, and their smell seeps into clothing and surfaces for days. They make up 2.5% of Thailand’s GDP, and poor quality can harm Thailand’s product reputation.

Also read: Do They Eat Dog Meat In Thailand?

Is The Smell Of Durian Invasive And Overpowering?

Durian has a somewhat controversial smell that some adore, but others find repulsive. Many people describe it as a pungent, overpowering smell that stinks like rotten eggs on a hot day. The coup de grâce is that it lingers and seeps into furniture, clothing, and other everyday items for days.

Famous Fruits Durian
Yay Durian

This kind of odor is obviously discomforting for people who may be sensitive to the smell or dislike it. As such, most hotels, airlines, and modes of public transport ban it and can refuse to let passengers board.

  • Thailand – banned on many types of public transport across Thailand, such as buses, trains, and planes.
  • Singapore – banned on the Singapore Rapid Mass Transit (MRT), many hotels, airports, and taxis.
  • Japan – banned on the Tokyo subway system, hotels, and restaurants.
  • Hong Kong – banned on the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) and some hotels and public buildings.
No durian sign in Thai train station
Isriya Paireepairit / Flickr No durian sign in Thai train station

Keep an eye out in most Asian cities like Bangkok, Singapore, and Hong Kong, for signs that warn people not to carry or eat them in the area.

There are fines and penalties for those who violate these directives. In Singapore, for instance, carrying a durian on the subway can result in a fine of S$500 ($372 USD). It aims to minimize the adverse effects that durian can have on people and the environment.

Are There Laws Against Durian In Thailand?

In 2022, Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry in Thailand issued a directive to punish durian sellers who deceive buyers about its origin, condition, and quality. The penal code states that offenders can face up to three years in prison or pay a fine of 60,000 baht ($1,727 USD).

The Penal Code works in conjunction to the Consumer Protection Act, reinforcing the Agricultural Standards Act B.E. 2551 (2008). It applies to all goods and services, not only durians. Violators can face six months in jail or a fine of 100,000 baht ($2,877 USD). Repeat offenders will receive double the penalty.

The Thai Agricultural Standard (TAS) is responsible for setting the national standard that applies to all durians. They must meet specific minimum requirements of quality, specifically:

  • It must be a whole fruit with a healthy-looking peduncle or an intact stem.
  • The exterior should be free of decay.
  • No signs of pests or pest damage, abnormal exterior moisture or appearances, foreign smells, and tastes.
  • The flesh should be firm, not watery or soft, without browning or blackening.
  • The TAS places each durian in its own quality category: Extra Class, Class I, and Class II. Factors like size, shape, color, defects, and maturity play a role. They also ensure the fruit is safe for consumption.

Durian also stands tall as a cultural symbol for Thailand. It represents their identity and heritage, so it’s important for them to share this fruit with others the right way. They want others to experience the same joy they receive from the taste and smell of durian.

For this reason, laws highly regulate durian to preserve the quality and reputation of the fruit and the people.

Durian is also a highly perishable fruit that can spoil quickly and become a health hazard if not stored or handled correctly. It also means they easily attract pests that can spread diseases or damage other crops.

Therefore, they must meet the TAS standards to ensure the best level of hygiene and safety and to preserve the reputation of Thai products.

Are Durians Major Export Products Of Thailand?

The Bangkok Post explains that durians are an integral part of Thailand’s exporting industry. During is at the top of the export list with over 94.8 billion baht ($2.9 billion USD) in sales and 2.5% of GDP.

Furthermore, it continues to grow by an impressive 40% yearly, as people highly value its nutritional benefits, unique taste, and aroma.

Thailand exported a whopping 6.2 billion baht ($180 million USD) worth of durians in the first quarter of 2023. It constitutes a 14% increase in demand from the same period in 2020.

Durian seller on the streets of Bangkok
Andres Miguez / Flickr Durian seller on the streets of Bangkok

The exporting process demands that Thailand meet specific standards and compliance and adhere to certain practices to ensure the quality and safety of durians. For instance, durians require thorough inspections, after which the TAS places them in their quality categories and the correct packaging.

How Does Thailand Tell A Good Durian From A Bad One?

Poor quality durian damages the reputation of all Thai products. The TAS follows a strict set of criteria to determine whether a durian is fit for consumption or exporting.

  • Check the stem – The stem tells a lot about the freshness of the durian. A durian with a green or white color where it detached from the tree indicates it fell off the tree in the last 24 hours.

A dark or brown stem means that the durian is old and fell from the tree long ago.

  • Inspect the exterior – Look for holes, black spots, cracks, or mold on the husk. They indicate infestation and decay and affect the quality of the flesh inside.
  • Husk shape – A good quality durian should have a symmetrical shape and a uniform size. One with an abnormal shape might indicate premature harvesting or artificial ripening.
  • Smell the durian – A ripe durian will have a strong and distinctive smell coming from the lines where the spikes run parallel. If a durian has little to no scent, it means it’s unripe.
  • Shake the durian – A ripe durian should rattle slightly or produce a mushy sound when you shake it because it will have some space between the flesh and the seed. An unripe durian carries no sound when you shake it.