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Weather hinders supply of Asian vegetables in the US
Supplies of Asian vegetables into the United States have been hampered due to weather conditions. Most of the vegetables in this category, which include products such as Indian and Chinese eggplant, Okra, Bittermelon and Long Squash, are grown in Central America all year round. However, Phil Quintana, of Vega Produce in Florida, said that shipping and adverse weather conditions have been the main constraint in market supply.
"Most of the Oriental vegetables come out of Honduras, and they're grown all year round there," he explained. "We also see some produce out of places like Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. The rainy season tends to shorten supplies but the main issue out of that region has been interruptions in shipping and production output."
Asian market and foodservice industry fueling growth
Asian vegetables have been making steady progress into the US market, driven by sales in Asian stores and restaurants. Products have been slow to enter the mainstream market, but over time that is changing as health-conscious buyers discover some of the health benefits.
"We've had more success in getting the eggplant varieties out to the broader market, the Indian and Chinese eggplants," continued Quintana. "The main reason is that they have a similar appearance to the regular eggplant, and therefore customers are more familiar with it. Other vegetables such as the Indian and Chinese bittermelon, are more difficult. Health-conscious buyers from every sector look for them too though, so we have seen huge growth there as well as gradually into mainstream supermarkets. Indian bittermelon, for example, is sometimes used as a healthy substitute for insulin. Another vegetable, the Tindora, a tiny, pickle sized vegetable, contains about 20-25g of protein in one small piece."
Okra supplies very tight
Due to the crop destruction in Florida, the main growing state in the United States, supplies of Okra are very short. This will continue until new stock arrives from Honduras. "A lot of the Okra grown in the US comes out of Florida," said Quintana. "But due to the hurricane, there is almost no domestic supply and this will continue for another 2-3 weeks until the Honduras imports start in mid October or early November. As a result, prices are escalating.
"Okra is a very delicate crop and needs to be shipped promptly for it to retain freshness," he added. "We've managed to increase the shelf life by using different packaging such as perforated bags. It's an up and coming item and we will continue to focus on improving ways to get it onto the market."
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