Philippines plans to export more okra to Japan

05, Oct. 2020

(Photo courtesy of  Philippine Department of Agriculture)
(Photo courtesy of Philippine Department of Agriculture)

MANILA, NNA – Hundreds of farmers in the Central Luzon region were able to ship tons newly harvested okra to Japan last week as restrictions gradually eased from more severe lockdowns that had affected supply chains.

Two tons of the lucrative vegetable, also known as lady's finger, were reaped from farms in 14 villages of Tarlac province, north of capital Metro Manila with safety protocols put in place, according to the Philippine department of agriculture.

About 300 cooperative farmers were involved in the cultivation, with Jelfarm Fresh Produce Enterprise leading the exports to Japan.

As one of the biggest okra exporters, Jelfarm plans to increase its harvest to five tons of the export-quality vegetable daily and then to 13 to 15 tons a day in the peak season, according to the agriculture department.

The company is also planning to expand its farmland to a thousand hectares for okra production for export with the help of the Philippine government.

Last week's batch was headed for cities with a very high demand for the vegetable like Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe and Nagoya. Popular in Japan, the crunchy vegetable with a gooey inside is regarded as a health food known for its many benefits.

“This is an indication that in spite of COVID-19, we are upping the game. This is a significant development,” said agriculture secretary William Dar in a press release.

Dar calls the latest shipment a “win-win arrangement” since okra farmers are able to earn even more than rice farmers.

Jeffrey Fernandez, one of the owners of JelFarm, said farmers can harvest up to one ton of okra per hectare for 75 days straight. He reckoned they would be able to make a net income of 80,000 pesos ($1,650) to 120,000 pesos ($2,475).

“It’s a fast turnaround crop, high-yielding crop, and a good source of income for the farmers,” he concluded.

The Philippines, which has been selling okra to Japan for several decades, plans to increase exports to help farmers earn more income.

One major buyer is Watari Co., a Japanese trading company, which began importing the vegetable in 1997. Packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre, okra is also a popular vegetable in many Asian cuisines.