Durian geographical indication in Penang, Malaysia and problematizing the transition from local to regional markets

Authors: Christopher Airriess*, Ball State University
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Tourism Geography, Asia
Keywords: durian, geographical indication, food tourism, commodity exports
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Gallier B, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Consumed by the rich and poor and urban and rural throughout Southeast Asia for centuries, the seasonal durian fruit in the last two decades has assumed iconic qualities as “branded” varieties have become fetishized commodities commanding premium prices. As a result, Malaysia is experiencing a transformation of its durian economy based not only on domestic demand, but increasingly because of both growing exports to China and consumption by Chinese tourists. It is in response to this quality turn in durian consumption that Penang agricultural and tourism officials were granted geographical indication (GI) status for Durian Balik Pulau named after a peri-urban agricultural district of the island. After a brief examination of the socioeconomic phenomena for this quality turn in durian branding, this paper then turns to the cultural and marketing dimensions of terroir in Balik Pulau to justify GI status. The paper then argues that the Durian Balik Pulau GI is less important to promoting environmental sustainability because of place-based traditions of durian biodiversity.

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