Okra or lady’s fingers will soon hit the Korean market as the Philippines starts exporting them for the 2021-2022 season after complying with the agreed requirements set by both countries.
“After the resumption of okra exports to Japan last year, we are opening yet another market access for our okra, this time with the huge Korean food market. The Philippine government has been requesting market access of okra to Korea since 2014 and finally, it was granted. This is a milestone for us considering we are still in the midst of the global pandemic,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar.
The government of Korea announced the completion of the ruling process for the Philippine okra market access to Korea through an official notification from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) on May 6, 2021, said DA Agriculture Attachè Aleli Maghirang in a report to Secretary Dar.
“I commend the efforts of concerned DA offices, particularly the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) and the Philippine Agriculture Office in Seoul, for this breakthrough and significant development that will also pave the way to more farm and fishery exports to Korea,” he added.
The DA chief said exports of fresh, green okra pods will be sourced initially from Tarlac province, where DA-BPI accredited farms and packing houses are located. Currently, there are four Philippine okra exporters, namely: Jelfarm Fresh Produce Enterprise; Greenstar Produce, Philippines Inc.; AAMC Foods Corp.; and Hi-Las Marketing Corp. All are members of the Philippine Okra Producers and Exporters Association (POPEA).
Maghirang said that due to the current pandemic-related travel restrictions, Korea’s MAFRA Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency (APQA) has requested the DA-BPI to conduct on their behalf appropriate investigations and provide inspection report in lieu of the required Korean on-site survey of the okra farms in Tarlac. Once the requirements are complied with, Philippine okra exports to Korea may commence, she added.
In Korea, Maghirang said okra is not as mainstream as radish, cabbage, cucumber, potato, and sprouts, which are parts of many Korean dishes. Some Koreans eat okra as “banchan” (side dish), including “okra muchim” (seasoned) or “okra kimchi” (pickled/fermented).
Okra is available only at the online market, as frozen or dried form. Processed okra products mostly imported from China, while the fresh, green pods are available in small volume, during summer season. These are mostly consumed by Filipinos and other Asian nationalities in Korea.
“This is therefore a good opportunity for us to enter the Korean food market and promote Philippine okra for mainstream consumers,” Secretary Dar said.
Okra has long been favored as a food for the health-conscious, as it contains potassium, Vitamins B and C, folic acid, calcium, and rich in amino acids. It prevents anemia, promotes healthy skin and pregnancy, prevents stomach ulcer, and improves the respiratory system.
Filipino farmers plant okra as it is a high-yielding crop and provides 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 500 kilograms up to one ton of okra pods per hectare, providing them a net income, ranging from P80,000 to P120,000.
“The entry of Philippine okra to the Korean market is indeed a welcome development to boost not only the livelihood and incomes of our farmers, but also pave way to other potential export crops, thus invigorating the country’s agriculture sector,” the DA chief concluded. ### (Rita dela Cruz, DA StratComms)