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Honduras Central America's biggest exporter of oriental vegetables

In Central America, Honduras is a pioneer in the production and export of oriental vegetables to the United States and Europe.

The international market has a great demand for exotic Chinese, Thai, and Indian eggplants, chive, hairy cucumbers, bangana and okra; which allow Honduras to generate one hundred million dollars (2,200 million lempiras) per year, said German Perez Destephen, former Minister of Agriculture and Livestock (SAG).

In turn, Andara Arnulfo Flores, president of the association of exporters of Comayagua and of the Exveco company said: "We are the only country in Central America that produces these products on a large scale. Guatemala and Nicaragua also export them, but in very small quantities."

Arnulfo Flores added that, even though the country could not compete with Mexico in sales volume, they could compete in quality and phytosanitary processes.

Producers of Asian origin vegetables in Comayagua are implementing indoor cultivation, which has increased plant yields by 30% and reduced the use of fertilizers.

"The quality of our crops is at the same level as that of major world exporters. That's why we have been experiencing a 5% sustainable growth each year," he said.

Andara said the first crops of Oriental vegetables had been planted in the valley of Comayagua in 1991, and that the planted area and the number of exporting companies, which currently totals eight, has been increasing since then.

"Two new companies started operating this year, which represents a stimulus for the local economy and the creation of more jobs, as each planted block creates 6 or 7 jobs," he said.

Jorge Romero, president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Comayagua (CCICOM), said this area concentrated 90% of Oriental vegetable crops, and that the remaining 10% was in Olancho and Choluteca.

A rising sector
Marco Flores, president of Cuasa, a company that exports okra and that is located in Choluteca, estimated that by the end of 2016 exports of this product would have increased by 50%.

"Currently we have cultivated some 500 hectares devoted to okra crops in this area. Next year, we expect to incorporate 200 hectares more."

Okra exports generate about 30 million dollars of total foreign currency.

Flores also said that they had entered the Netherlands market early this year and that they expect to expand exports in Europe soon.

Phytosanitary processes
Wilfredo Fiallos, the regional coordinator of the National Agricultural Health Service (SENASA) in Camayagua, said that the plant protection process was stricter every day.

"The market now requires that an inspector from Senasa endorse each shipped a batch. However, we must recognize that the work performed by the exporting plants in Honduras is very good. They even grow their products indoors and have computerized irrigation to reduce the incidence of pests and use less fertilizer. Costs increase, but the market pays more for this product, "said Fiallos.

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