Exporting 500 Tons of Tabor Tomatoes to Japan
In mid-March, when early spring couldn’t yet keep the cold wind from brushing our cheeks, we dropped by Green-Farm Ariul Corporation, which specializes in the export of tomatoes to Japan. Situated in Gimje City, North Jeolla Province, the corporation has been producing tomatoes for export for the past four years in greenhouses of a total area of 1.1ha. Five union members have joined their efforts to form a corporation to cultivate the fruit.
The greenhouses were built in 2013 with the latest facilities. The pillars are over 6 meters long, which offers an excellent cultivation environment if you consider that tomato plants take nearly a year to grow.
The corporation has used its 10 years of knowhow in greenhouse cultivation to install a wide range of facilities and thereby further improve the growing conditions. Firstly, the farmers introduced an integrated control system that maintains the appropriate temperature, humidity, and ratio of CO2 for raising tomatoes. This system enables the farmers to respond immediately, if necessary, by opening windows, heating, and supplying a nutrient solution according to the information entered into the program.
Park Moon-shin, CEO of the corporation, explains, “The equipment is laid out in greenhouses of over 1 ha in size, so it would be impossible for us to check and adjust the temperature and humidity whenever occasion requires if it were not for the system.” He adds, “Now, we can come in only when external conditions change abruptly and otherwise rely on the program input. Compared to usual maintenance methods, this system raises productivity by 30 percent.”
Focus on Humidity Control to Prevent Fungus Diseases
A duct was set up under the bed that supports the artificial medium for tomatoes. The duct is connected to a fan, which works around the clock. The purpose of this system is to circulate air on an ongoing basis and thereby prevent the formation of fungus. Through these efforts, the farmers strive to maintain the proper humidity―the most important factor in the cultivation of crops in a greenhouse. Mr. Park shared his last year’s experience, saying, “At that time, we set the level of humidity at 80 percent, which is the general standard, but we encountered more fungus diseases than we expected. So this year, we lowered the level to 70 percent. This means we have to ventilate more intensively than last year, and the heating fees have also gone up.”
Every year, Green-Farm Ariul Corporation sows seeds in mid-July and starts reaping the harvest in the middle of October. They produce tomatoes until the end of the following year. Half of the harvest is circulated in the domestic market and the other half is shipped to Japan. Compared to other farms, the annual output of the corporation is 50 percent higher―40kg per 1㎡―which puts it in the rank of the top-class producers.
Cultivation Knowhow Leads to Export of Tabor Tomatoes
Green-Farm Ariul Corporation cultivates tomatoes of the red-colored variety called Tabor. Generally, exporting farms prefer Dafnis due to their better storability and round shape. In addition, Tabor tomatoes are known for their weak skin. When asked why the corporation chose Tabor tomatoes, Mr. Park replied that they were confident they would be able to distribute it in foreign markets.
Mr. Park explains, “Tabor tomatoes take on a pinkish red color, and that is the color that the Japanese prefer. In addition, if cultivated well, Tabor tomatoes yield many fruits and buyers like it when productivity is high.” In fact, to prepare for entering the Japanese market, the farmers invited buyers and businessmen from the distribution industry to conduct a blind test. The result was that Tabor tomatoes received passing scores both for their color and taste.
Mr. Park says, “We had tried exporting Tabor tomatoes in the past but they received poor reviews due to the problem in storability. The main reason was our lacking cultivation skills, so we failed to produce tomatoes that consumers wanted. But the quality of tomatoes differs greatly according to the cultivation method. Now, thanks to our maintenance system and accumulated skills, we are able to produce high-quality tomatoes.”
The high yield is yet another evidence of the huge strides the farmers made in acquiring the knowhow. The export amount grown in the greenhouses managed by Mr. Park reaches 160 tons a year. Considering that the total export amount Korea ships abroad is 3,500 tons per year, the corporation’s share of 500 tons accounts for 14 percent.
Securing Safety with Pesticide Use Guidelines
Since Green-Farm Ariul Corpora-tion is engaged in export, its top priority is food safety. In the case of tomatoes, safety can be secured by carefully selecting only the registered pesticides and using them strictly according to guidelines. The member farms share their records of pesticide use with each other and make their best efforts to prevent any potential problems. Tomato pollination is carried out by releasing bees in greenhouses. Mr. Park revealed the corporation’s plans, saying, “The US, New Zealand, Mexico, and other countries are exporting tomatoes to Japan. Given its geographic location, Korea is in an advantageous position. We are planning to compile a safe greenhouse manual in cooperation with neighboring producers and increase the export amount step by step by emphasizing the safety of our tomatoes.”
Inquiries Green-Farm Ariul Corporation
Park Sung Eun email@example.com
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