Vegetable Soybean Is New Potential Export For Japanese Market

Vegetable Soybean Is New Potential Export For Japanese Market

The Japanese are not only fond of eating okra. They also love to eat the vegetable soybean which they call Edamame. We are of course happy to learn that JelFarm which is the biggest exporter of okra to Japan based in Tarlac will start producing Edamame next year for export to Japan. This we learned from Jef Fernandez who manages the JelFarm that has been exporting okra to Japan for about 30 years.

Why are we happy? We are happy because maybe this time the vegetable soybean can be produced in commercial volume for the export market. With the long business relationship of JelFarm with the Japanese importer, the Japanese buyer surely has developed his confidence on the capability of the Tarlac agri company to deliver the goods.

Vegetable Soybean Is New Potential Export For Japanese Market
Close up of Edamame bean.

Edamame is not considered a major crop. The world demand is just a fraction of the field dried soy varieties that are used commercially for the production of various food products like tofu, soy sauce, livestock and poultry feeds. However, the Japanese market could be big enough to bring substantial foreign exchange to the Philippine economy just like okra that JelFarm has been exporting.

Edamame is mainly used as a snack by the Japanese. It is very simple to prepare. The green pods that are immature, 80% filled, are simply blanched or immersed  shortly in boiling salted water. After that, the pod is slightly opened and the beans are simply moved by the fingers direct to the mouth. The bean is more plump than the field dried varieties. The favored varieties are the ones with sweetish and savoury flavor. Aside from being consumed as fresh snack, the immature beans are cooked with other vegetables, stir-fried or mixed into salads. The beans are also ground into a paste and combined with miso to make a delightful soup.

Last April 23, we visited JelFarm together with the delegation of young Taiwanese farmers and their mentors. In that visit, Jef was able to exchange experiences with Dr.Ma Yuh-An, the 33-year-old chairman of the Central Taiwan Agriultural Cooperative from Taichung county. Coincidentally. Dr. Ma is an experienced grower of soybeans, both Edamame and the field dried varieties. Taiwan, incidentally, is reported to be the major exporter of frozen Edamame pods and beans to Japan.

Vegetable Soybean Is New Potential Export For Japanese Market
Jef Fernandez (left) listening to Dr. Ma Yuh-An discussing Edamame.

Jef informed Dr. Ma that JelFarm has had field plantings of Variety No. 9 from Taiwan which is performing well under Tarlac conditions. The variety is harvestable 72 days after seeding. In Taiwan, Dr. Ma informed Jef, the same variety matures in 78 days probably because of the cooler weather. Dr. Ma added that there is a new Taiwan variety that is well liked by the Japanese. It is Variety No. 11 which has brown beans. It is said to have a nice aroma and savoury flavor. We were able to taste the Edamame grown by JelFarm in Tarlac. The flavor is very good and the beans are sweetish. Jef said they will start producing the variety for export next year, February to May 2019.

Dr. Ma emphasized the importance of producing quality pods for export. Pods that have two to three seeds are best accepted. If possible no pod with a single seed should be included in the pack.

By the way, we first tasted Edamame in the 1960s when the late Dr. Richard Bradfield, agronomist of the International Rice Research Institute, developed a rice-based multi-cropping and intercropping scheme for farmers. We remember very well that we liked the Edamame produced at IRRI. Unfortunately, we had not observed any serious takers in producing Edamame except limited garden plantings. We remember also that the Bureau of Plant Industry in Los Baños produced seeds for distribution to whoever would be interested to plant. Neither did we see any commercial taker.

In more recent years, we learned that a Japanese had asked a farmer in Tiaong, Quezon to produce Edamame for him for possible shipment to Japan. Just the same, the project did not last long. The reason why we are so happy to learn that JelFarm will now grow Edamame for export to Japan is because with the experience of the Tarlac firm in exporting okra, it could do the same to Edamame. It would be another foreign exchange earner for the Philippines and will provide another source of livelihood for farmers.

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2 thoughts on “Vegetable Soybean Is New Potential Export For Japanese Market

  1. Consider me as one happy edamame enthusiast to learn about the plan of JelFarm to produce and export the delicious and nutritious vegetable soybean to Japan. I have been growing edamame since prior to 2012 with varied degrees of result of seed multiplication depending upon timing and weather conditions particularly during the La Nina events. Seed production is key to successful commercialization.

    As native of Batangas, I used to eat “nilagang utaw” or boiled soybean pods bought from the Lipa City public market back during the early 1950s when I was in high school. Farmers used grain soybean and harvest the pods somewhat already ripened or yellowish, quite different from the green and large edamame pods. Grown in the nearby towns of San Jose and Cuenca, nilagang utaw tasted good nevertheless as they were chewy also but edamame is a lot tastier, so much so, that during our high school mini-reunion meetings, my classmates were surprised and appreciative of the edamame I brought for them. I could not sustain the pasalubong from Los Banos however, because of seed production problems.

    My first encounter with real edamame was with the multiple cropping project of Dr. Richard Bradfield at IRRI during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Like you, I had wondered, in spite of great demand and all appreciation for its great taste and demand, why no farmer commercially produced edamame the multiple-cropping way with non-flooded rice (just maintain the soil moist and no puddling required), sweet corn, sweat potato, etc, and get higher income than from rice monocrop.
    .
    I initially accessed my seeds from BPI-LBNCRDC (Bureau of Plant Industry-Los Banos National Crop Research and Development Center) with its Vegetable Soybean (vesoy) varieties VS1, VS2 and VS3 produced successfully from trials in collaboration with the Taiwan-based Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC now World Vegetable or World Veg) of which the Philippines is co-founder along with ADB and seven other countries.

    I have also tried the Sayamusume variety from California but with little success in terms of expected size of pods. When I once gave samples in a seminar in Agrilink agribusiness exhibition, a US balikbayan commented why the pods were smaller than those in the US where edamame has become a craze. This is still a puzzle, in spite of the applied good agricultural practices.

    Zac, I wish to contact Jef Fernandez so I could share with him my experiences on edamame growing. For information, I found that the best time to plant vegetable soybean to produce seeds is October. Planting in late February or March up to June will result in unfilled and wrinkled seeds, perhaps as a result of soybean being a short-day plant, so out of season. However, I experimented planting vesoy starting on April 4, 2019 (going into longer daylengths that started on March 21, 2019 or equinox) in 10 sacks of soil with compost then covered and uncovered the plants with plastic sheet to simulate the daylengths (sunrise and sunset times) in October 2019. Initial results: As of today, plants are about 75 cm tall, with lush vegetative growth, with wide leaves and full of maturing pods with expectation of high yield if there would be good grain filling. The pods will be harvested for seeds, if everything goes well. This state has never been achieved under field conditions in the past even in October planting. Perhaps, applying plenty of compost matters. Control or no treatment: plants stunted, with yellowish leaves and showing poor growth and expected minimal yield, if any.

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