Nutritious Golden Kiwi Gains New Attention
New Korean Varieties Enter the Global Market
Among a variety of different fruits, there is one that used to be in the spotlight due to the high concentration of vitamin C. That is kiwi. In fact, the nutritional value of kiwi is so high that two kiwis can satisfy the amount of vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, magnesium, and potassium we need per day. The vitamin C content in one kiwi, for example, is known to be three times that in an apple and twice that in an orange or grape. Thanks to these merits, kiwis used to be very popular. However, after some time, consumers realized that, compared to other fruits, kiwis are not easy to peel and that the fruit requires extra time for ripening before it can be eaten. As a result, interest in kiwis decreased and so did the demand.
Then, consumers started to take notice of golden kiwis, which are sweeter than common kiwis and can easily be eaten with a spoon after being cut in half. The advantages earned the golden kiwi many fans. In 2004, New Zealand’s Zespri corporation established several cultivation areas for golden kiwis on Korea’s Jeju Island. The fruits cultivated there are distributed both domestically and internationally, and the farmers engaged in growing the fruit pay royalty fees to Zespri.
Seeing the situation as an opportunity, research centers funded by Korea’s central government and local administrations jumped into developing new varieties of the fruit. Since 2007, the newly created varieties of golden kiwis have been distributed to farmers. The most remarkable among them are the Halla golden kiwi of the Rural Development Administration and the Haegeum golden kiwi of South Jeolla Province’s Agriculture Research & Extension Services. In 2010, the new types of kiwi started being sold through direct transactions between farmers, consumers, and large distributors. Last year marked the beginning of exports to Japan and Singapore.
USD$1 million Export Contract with Japan
The exporter is the Suncheon Cooperatives Union Corporation. Last September, it signed a contract to export Haegeum golden kiwis with Infarm, one of the largest Japanese importers. The export amount was set at USD$1 million per year. The contract parties have agreed to collaborate in the smooth supply, marketing, and promotion of excellent quality of Haegeum kiwis.
The corporation started searching for foreign markets based on an estimate that yields of Haegeum golden kiwi will increase year by year. Currently, the cultivation areas amount to 130ha that are spread along the southern coast of Korea―Wando, Goheung, Suncheon, and other areas. The trees are still young, so a year’s yield is between 1,000 and 1,500 tons. However, it is expected that when the trees are fully grown in about five years, the harvest will approach 5,000 tons. With more product, awareness of the Haegeum golden kiwi brand will naturally go up, but distribution in the domestic market may also become a problem. That is why the corporation decided to seek out an early entry into overseas markets.
Jung Jae-hwan, Manager of the Agricultural Products Processing Center (APC) said, “The rising popularity of golden kiwis is prompting the farms that grow the common kiwi to switch to cultivation of golden kiwis. However, even those farmers that already have ties with major domestic supermarkets need to diversify their distribution channels to raise their bargaining power.”
Quality Tests Decide Harvesting Time
Haegeum golden kiwis possess a number of superior features in comparison with other golden kiwis. They have a strong resistance to bacterial canker, a disease which is fatal to kiwi trees because it forms cork layers around the fruit’s peel and the tree’s leaves and stems. The variety also withstands cold weather relatively well. The shape of the fruits is a well-balanced oval and the sugar content is over 15。Brix, so consumers can feel that Haegeum golden kiwis are sweeter.
The fruits are harvested from early October, which is two weeks earlier than other varieties. Around this time of the year, the circulation amount of New Zealand’s Zespri kiwis is reduced. This helps increase the market share of Haegeum kiwis.
The biggest advantage of the goods of the corporation is that they are put on the market after passing strict quality tests. To determine whether the fruits are ready to be harvested, kiwis of each individual farm must meet the fixed standards for sugar content, hardness, chromaticity, and dry weight. It is only after passing these tests that the farmers are allowed to reap the kiwis. Enforcing these strict regulations was possible because the farmers themselves form the producer organization: Haegeum Golden Kiwi Farming Association Corporation.
Mr. Jung explains, “Golden kiwis have to be armed with high quality because they compete with domestic as well as foreign kiwis.” He adds, “Haegeum golden kiwis show high figures in dry weight tests, and that is the key to a delicious fruit.”
Awarded a Presidential Prize at Korean Varieties Awards
The excellent quality of Haegeum golden kiwis has been proven at objective contests held by the Korean government and other organizations. Last year, the fruit won the most honorable Presidential Award at the contest for Korean varieties of fruits and vegetables. Organized by the Korea Seed & Variety Service every year, the contest is intended to promote the development of superior new varieties of Korean origin.
Mr. Cho Youn-sup, Ph.D., who played a leading role in developing Haegeum kiwis, reveals, “We supplied farmers with a new variety for the first time in 2007, and, thanks to its superb quality, around 400 farm families have joined so far. We have completed the procedures for registering Haegeum kiwi as a protected variety, so farmers can cultivate it without worrying about royalty fees.”
According to Dr. Cho, kiwis, unlike other fruits, become sweeter and more delicious when they ripen until softening. To facilitate the ripening, it is recommended to put 10 to 20 kiwis in a plastic bag with a piece of an apple and leave it indoors at 20℃ for 3 to 4 days. Dr. Cho says with confidence, “We will do our best to make Haegeum golden kiwis earn the trust of consumers at home and abroad. To achieve this objective, we will strive to gain recognition in the international market by focusing on quality management in cooperation with producer organizations and distributors.”
Inquiries Suncheon Common of the Primary Cooperatives Union Cooperation