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Iksan Melon, A Rising Star among Korean MelonsBetter Organization of Farmers and Expansion of Scale Lead to Improved Quality and Stable Supply

Melon can satisfy both the taste and health demands of customers with its high sugar content, sweet taste and scent, and abundance of nutrients such as iron, niacin, vitamin A, vitamin C and beta-carotene. Korean melons are winning the hearts of customers abroad with their sweetness, juiciness, and delicious flavor. Major exporting regions of melon in Korea include Seji (South Jeolla Province), Gokseong (South Jeolla Province), and Gochang (North Jeolla Province). Most recently, thanks to highly positive reviews from overseas, Iksan City (North Jeolla Province) has emerged as the largest exporter of Korean melons. Korea Agrafood has visited Iksan Horticulture Nonghyup to find out the secrets of its successful expansion to foreign markets.

Laying the Foundations for Export by Expanding Farming Cooperatives
Iksan boasts an optimal environment for cultivating melons, tomatoes, watermelons, and other fruits, as the area has a lot of wide fields, a river (Geum-gang) and receives abundant sunshine. The daily temperature range is large and the soil contains a lot of sand and red clay with microorganisms boosting the soil’s fertility. Melons grown under these conditions develop a high sugar content and firm texture.

Despite their excellent quality, Iksan melons had only a minor presence in Taiwan, Japan, and Southeast Asia (the major importers of Korean melons) until recently. Many farmers desired to export but none managed to demonstrate a strong will for export expansion to overseas buyers. Another obstacle was the fact that different farms in the area used different criteria to select melons for export. Against these backdrops, Iksan Horticulture Nonghyup started building an efficient melon export system in 2012, by striving to equalize the quality of exported melons. It also planned an export promotion project and organized related briefing sessions for the farm houses. As a result, Iksan Melon Export Cooperative Association was established in 2014.

Oh Sang-oak, a senior manager of Iksan Horticulture Nonghyup, said, “It was our urgent task to organize the farmers better so we could offer a larger volume of melons for export. With the help of Iksan City Administration and Iksan Agricultural Technology Center, we first brought together the agricultural cooperatives into a team specializing in melon exports.”

Production of Melons Averaging 1.3kg to 1.9kg
The current number of farmhouses in Iksan Melon Export Cooperative Association is 150. They cultivate the fruit on a total area of about 24 ha. The expansion of exports started to gain momentum last year, when the association shipped 200 tons of melons overseas. Oh said, "The stabilization of supply by organizing farmers became an important step in expanding exports. In addition, we have invested a lot of time into improving the quality of our products.” Iksan Horticulture Nonghyup regularly conducts cultivation training for farmers to produce fruit of uniformly high quality.

According to Oh, sessions by experts in cultivating high-quality melons for export are offered in an APC (Agriproducts Processing Center) meeting room every Monday at 11:00 am. He is confident that the productivity and merchantability of Iksan melons are steadily improving as a result of the farmers learning and sharing advanced cultivation skills. Nowadays, the farmers are keen to study eco-friendly farming which minimizes the use of chemical fertilizers.

Thorough management by Iksan Horticulture Nonghhyup continues even after harvesting. The organization collects melons at different stages of maturity and stores them in a low temperature storage until the products are shipped overseas in refrigerated containers. Reflecting the preferences of foreign consumers, only the melons weighing 1.3 to 1.9kg and having a sugar content of 12 to 14° Bx are selected for exports.

This Year’s Export Goal of 300 Tons
This year, Iksan has had a good crop of melons, and the production volume is expected to exceed that of last year. Given the support from Iksan Horticulture Nonghyup, the farmers anticipate that exports will increase as well. They expect to ship 300 tons of melons overseas, which is 100 tons more than last year. Oh said, “In addition to our main export market of Taiwan, we plan to expand exports to Japan and Singapore.”

*Iksan horticulture Nonghyup APC
Tel: +82-63-841-6130 (Chief +82-10-2608-8328)

Kim Hyo Jin  hjkim@agrinet.co.kr

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