Watermelon radish is a product of Asian origin which is consumed in Japan, but is relatively unknown in the rest of the world. It was, until recently, only grown in China, but is now also grown in Mexico.
Unique in America
The Mexican company Bórquez Export is the only producer and exporter of watermelon radish in the Americas. It also grows Chioggia beets and red carrots known as "Atomic carrots". "Our main market is Asia, mainly Japan, as they are products of high commercial value, and we have a very large market in Mexico," explains Eugenio A. Lopez Bórquez, executive director of Bórquez Export.
The trader affirms that the Japanese consume this product often and use it for many things, including decoration. It is completely unknown outside of Asia, and even in many parts of the continent itself, because it is a high-end product. The company is seeking new markets for export. "We have been organising promotions in Hong Kong, and next year we will go to Berlin and Moscow. Many Europeans liked it, particularly the Spanish and the Italians," assures López.
It is an expensive product, since it is in very short supply, and can cost up to $36, depending on the producer. "Its flavour is very special, different from that of other radishes. It is a gourmet product," affirms the producer. Due to its price, watermelon radish is exported by air. "Also, the Japanese like to have it immediately. By plane, it only takes 4 days, and by boat, 20 days," he adds.
Bórquez Export produces 10 tonnes of watermelon radish per week and ships them to Japan, but is looking for new customers in other parts of Asia and the world. Its only real competition is China, which is the only country that produces it; however, the grower assures that consumers there no longer want it because the country is heavily polluted.
López tells the story of how they started cultivating this product. Its main customer, to which it sold other products from Mexico, encouraged him to try it because they did not want to buy from China due to its pollution. "We prefer Mexican products, which are cleaner and more natural," affirms the buyer.
The Mexican climate and soil are very favourable for the cultivation of watermelon radish, as they are very similar to those of the Chinese region where they are usually grown. "They also tried to produce it in New Zealand, but it grows completely white there, without the pink centre, which is its particularity," explains López.
Season and climate
Bórquez Export produces watermelon radish all year round, but the producer explains that the peak season is in winter, from October to March; a period when the production volume and calibre of the radishes increase.
López is aware that the climate is changing and that some months have been "displaced". "We should now be in the autumn, but we still have very hot summer weather; therefore, this year we are planning to have a much earlier winter production. The area where we are located is mountainous and colder, which benefits our product," he explains.
Lastly, the producer assures that its products are grown in a completely traditional manner, from planting to packaging, to be able to provide work to the people living off the land. The company is socially responsible and pay its workers well to allow the community to grow at the same pace as the company and to motivate Mexicans to stop leaving the country and emigrating to the United States. "We want to show that we can supply quality products, meeting the strict standards demanded by Japanese consumers," he concludes.