Fresh durian rail cargo on way to China

Fresh durian rail cargo on way to China

2nd attempt after earlier virus scare

A large batch of durians worth 75 million baht is on its way by train to China via Laos, according to the State Railway of Thailand (SRT).

It is the second shipment to be sent after the first failed to pass Covid-safety inspections on April 14 and had to be sent back, prompting the Commerce Ministry to call for more thorough oversight on exporting produce to ensure it is free of risk and all safety standards are met.

A total of 425 tonnes of durians harvested in Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat were loaded onto a train at Map Ta Phut industrial estate in Rayong province on Monday. The train was heading to Laos' Thanalaeng station in Laos' capital, Vientiane, via Nong Khai. From Vientiane, the durians will be transferred to another train destined for China.

The durians, valued at 75 million baht, were being delivered in 25 freight carriages.

Ekkarat Sriarayanpong, director of the SRT's public relations centre, said the SRT deputy director, Pongsak Boonsuk, presided over the release of the latest shipment of durians to China.

The movement of goods by rail would do much to return Thai fruit exports to China back to pre-Covid-19 volumes, he said.

According to the PR centre, the Transport Ministry and the SRT has consistently prioritised the development of rail transport which is key in making the country's logistics more competitive.

Trains also provide a cost-effective transport alternative for farmers looking to export their produce. Trains can carry a lot more goods and produce per trip than trucks.

Mr Ekkarat said the SRT has supported the Kaocharoen Train Transport Co Ltd in its latest train delivery of durians to China. The fruit was stored in air-conditioned carriages all the way to the destination to preserve freshness.

The durians will reach China more quickly than delivery by boat and the use of rail has eased the problem of oversupply of the fruit. In addition, railway haulage requires less human contact with the goods which reduces the chance of contamination by diseases including Covid-19.

On April 14, operators of the fruit export sector were told to implement strict Covid-19 protocols after a shipment to China was banned from entering the country for three days due to the discovery of traces of the coronavirus on the surface of durian packages.

Governor Suthee Thongyaem then ordered operators in the fruit trade to comply with disease control measures as well as test all workers.

The move came after a Thai shipment of the fruit at China's Mohan checkpoint was found to be contaminated, resulting in a temporary ban. The virus was detected on trucks and the surface of packages.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said rail transport complemented the multi-mode delivery of goods between Thailand and China. Shipments by boat make up the highest volume while land transport, including rail, accounts for about 40%.

Mr Jurin said every effort was being made to ensure exports bound for China remain Covid-free.

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