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Hello, Korea: PH exports first shipment of okra

  • The Philippines sent its first shipment of fresh okra (lady’s fingers) to South Korea on June 6
  • The 1,200 kilogram shipment, the first of three before the current season ends, is expected to arrive in Korea within 36 hours
  • Philippine Okra Producers and Exporters Association chairperson Roberto Amores said reorders are expected soon
  • Hi-Las Marketing Corp and Jelfarm Fresh Produce Enterprise are the two accredited okra exporters to Korea, but the new market is expected to generate opportunities for more local farmers and exporters

The Philippines began commercial shipment of fresh okra (lady’s fingers) to South Korea on June 6.

The initial 1,200 kilograms shipment, the first of three before the current season ends, is expected to arrive in Korea within 36 hours.

The Philippine government since 2014 has been requesting access for okra to the Korean market. Last May, the Department of Agriculture (DA) announced the Philippines will start exporting to the Asian country for the 2021-2022 season after complying with the agreed requirements set by both countries.

READ: PH fresh okra to enter South Korean market

“This will really strengthen our efforts to support the high-value crops not only for local consumption but for exports. Export development and promotion is one of our key strategies in the DA so that the farmers and agripreneurs involved will have more income at the end of the day. The quality of produce will be maintained, and the volume will be there because of consolidated farming,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a statement.

Philippine Okra Producers and Exporters Association (POPEA) chairperson Roberto Amores said reorders are expected soon as promotions in South Korea are being aggressively pushed by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and DA, together with the private sector groups of POPEA, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc., and Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization, Inc.

“Harvest period of fresh okra starts from mid-October [and lasts] until mid-June. The opportunity to sell fresh okra is almost the same for both Korea and Japan due to their similar weather pattern and off-season period, where Philippine origin is in good timing for the production schedule,” Amores said. The Philippines last year resumed exports of okra to Japan.

DA noted that producers of fresh okra for export to Japan and South Korea strictly comply with sanitary and phytosanitary requirements and Good Agricultural Practices to ensure product safety and quality. Traceability codes and date of packing are also indicated on each pack of exported okra.

Currently, POPEA members Hi-Las Marketing Corporation and Jelfarm Fresh Produce Enterprise are the two accredited okra exporters to Korea, but the new market is expected to generate opportunities for more local farmers and exporters.

Hi-Las and Jelfram involve about 500 clustered farmers in Tarlac producing export-quality okra products. Other POPEA members are AAMC Foods Corp and Greenstar Produce Phils., Inc.

DA earlier said okra is not as mainstream in South Korea as radish, cabbage, cucumber, potato or sprouts, which are part of many Korean dishes. Some Koreans eat okra as “banchan” (side dish), including “okra muchim” (seasoned) or “okra kimchi” (pickled/fermented).

Okra in Korea is only currently available online, in frozen or dried form. Processed okra products are mostly imported from China, while the fresh, green pods are usually available in small volume during summer season, mostly consumed by Filipinos and other Asian nationalities in Korea.

DA noted that okra has long been favored as a food for the health-conscious, as it contains potassium, vitamins B and C, folic acid, calcium, and amino acids. Okra prevents anemia, promotes healthy skin and pregnancy, prevents stomach ulcer, and improves the respiratory system.

Okra is a high-yielding crop that provides Filipino farmers a good source of income. Its green pods can be harvested as early as 55 to 65 days upon seeding. Surveys show that farmers can harvest from 500 kilograms to one ton of okra pods per hectare, providing a net income ranging from P80,000 to P120,000.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the new trade with South Korea is part of the country’s recovery plans and will contribute to Philippine export growth. He has also committed to push for the reduction of tariffs on selected agricultural products imported by Korea including okra, mango, banana, and pineapple.

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