The other day, Ric Reyes was excited in telling us about a smallhold farmer from Sri Lanka who has been exporting ampalaya to Europe and the Middle East and getting a price two to three times higher than the price in the local market. Ric Reyes is the Global Product Manager of East-West Seed who goes around many countries where his company’s seeds are grown.
The farmer is B.A.S. Champica of Kobawaka, Govinna, Sri Lanka who has been planting Maya F1 bittergourd (ampalaya) developed by East-West. He has been using the technology that he acquired when he trained on Good Agricultural Practices given by the Department of Agriculture one year ago.
The technique that helps him to produce export-quality ampalaya is called “Spun Bond” technology. Spun Bond is a thin non-woven fabric that is used to cover the young ampalaya plants until they start flowering and fruiting in about 35 to 40 days from planting. The non-woven fabric, which is permeable to rain, air and sunlight, creates a micro-climate inside which enhances vigorous growth of the plants free from the attack of insect pests. At the same time, it protects the plants from extreme weather conditions.
Farmer Champica exports about 500 kilos of ampalaya each week or a total of two tons a month. He gets a price of 300 to 450 rupees per kilo compared to only 150 per kilo in the local market. At 450 per kilo, the two tons would bring in 1,800,000 rupees which is equivalent to $11,520 in US currency or P526,000 in Philippine money.
The Maya F1 is a hybrid ampalaya with white fruits, a color preferred by Asian migrants who have settled in Italy, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Middle East countries.
Reyes reports that there are about 250 smallholder farmers in Sri Lanka who are exporting ampalaya to Europe and the Middle East. They have formed the Sri Lankan GAP Farmers Association to enhance their status as producers and exporters.
According to Reyes, East-West plans to expand and teach more farmers on new seed technologies, knowledge transfer, including the use of Spun Bond technology. The company will conduct hands-on training, techno demo, farmer lectures, and other learning methods in keeping with its mission to improve the income of smallholder farmers.