East-West’s Ampalaya In Other Countries

Burmese bitter gourd grower (left) shows the fruit of
Palee to Ric Reyes in his farm in Hmawbi, Yangon
 province, Yanmar. Palee is now a favorite in Burma.
Indian farmer Rama Murthy (right) showing fruit of Palee bitter
gourd which has prominent spines. This is now a favorite in India.
Ric Reyes (right) with Indian farmer showing fruit of the white
Maya bitter gourd that’s becoming popular in India.
The Kiew Yok 16 bitter gourd (ampalaya) preferred in Thailand,
Vietnam and China. It is light-green with big fruits, 680 grams each.
The current business strategy of vegetable seed producer East-West Seed Company is to promote its developed hybrids in other countries that love to eat tropical vegetables.

The fellow that has been assigned to develop new markets abroad, especially for its ampalaya and papaya, is Ric Reyes who sports the title of “Combination Market Development Manager.”

India is one country that has been responding beautifully to the introduction of improved ampalaya developed by East-West Seed plant breeders in the Philippines.

Reyes explains that the Indians prefer the variety that has prominent spines. Sometimes, it is called warty ampalaya. The Indians have their own traditional spiny variety. When Palee, the improved spiny variety developed by East-West Seed, was introduced a few years ago, the farmers were reluctant to shift to the East-West hybrid, according to Reyes.

However, when some farmers have tried it and the variety yielded as much as 300 percent more than the traditional variety, Palee has become an instant favorite. One of the farmers who is very happy with Palee is Rama Murthy of DbPhur in Bangalore. He has been planting Palee for the past four seasons and in the last cropping season he got 21 tons per acre which is about 4,000 square meters.

Murthy grossed from that area a total of 168,000 rupees equivalent to P126,000 in Philippine money. He spent only the equivalent of P30,000 for seeds, labor, fertilizer and crop protection chemicals.

From his four acres or about 1.6 hectares, Murthy estimated his net income at the equivalent of P384,000. From his income from ampalaya, Murthy has been able to provide the family’s needs and pay for all his loans. 

Most farmers in Bangalore, according to Ric Reyes, plant ampalaya because of the high income it gives. Planting is done year-round and the farmers use granite slabs for trellising. Granite is abundant and is cheap in Bangalore. Granite slabs, 9 feet long and 1 foot wide, are ideal for trellising. Two feet is buried in the ground. Watering is done by drip irrigation which is cheap because it is subsidized by the government.

One other variety that was introduced by East-West in India is a white version of Palee called Maya. The fruits are spindle-shaped with thick spines that do not easily get damaged during transport. More and more farmers in India are discovering the good income potential from white ampalaya since it commands a higher price than the green variety.

A farmer that Ric Reyes interviewed said that he gets a premium of 4 to 8 rupees per kilo over the green spiny variety. He sells his white ampalaya at the equivalent of P19.50 per kilo.

Meanwhile, the Palee variety is also becoming a favorite of Burmese farmers, according to Ric Reyes. One of the satisfied farmers he met was U Soe Oo of Hmwabi, Yangon province. 

The farmers in Myanmar like the excellent fruit setting of Palee as well as its tolerance to downy mildew disease. The fruit is also well liked by consumers.

Farmer U Soe Oo said he grossed the equivalent of P43,298 from 4,000 square meters or one acre he planted to Palee. He only spent about P16,800 to produce that amount.

In Thailand, Vietnam and China, East-West is also active in promoting ampalaya varieties but these are the light-colored ones. That’s because it is the color preferred by these markets.

There’s a vast market awaiting development for East-West Seed. Ric Reyes says that they are not only promoting their varieties. They are also disseminating management technologies to help farmers produce more income so they will continue planting more vegetables developed by East-West.

In Africa, meanwhile, Ric Reyes relates that the low-growing Red Royale papaya developed by East-West is now a favorite in Kenya.

And in Vietnam, the Suprema squash, long a favorite in the Philippines is on the way to becoming No.1.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, East-West Seed is preparing for its 30th anniversary celebration in December. Aside from the big celebration at the company’s headquarters in San Rafael, Bulacan, in December, there will be a road show in each region starting this October.

It means that a showcase of the company’s varieties planted in a demo farm will be put up in each region and farmers will be invited to a field day. The most outstanding vegetable grower in the region will also be named and given an award.

A total out 30 outstanding vegetable farmers will be named during the grand celebration next December.
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