Sweet-and-Sour Taste & High Sugar Content…Fruit from the Clean Jeju Island
Seogwipo Growers’ Agricultural Cooperative Exports Satsuma to the US, Mongolia, and Other Countries
Blessed with a wonderful natural environment, Jeju Island is one of the World Natural Heritage Sites. One of its representative fruits is satsuma. Korea produces satsumas in green houses in all seasons, but the main harvesting season for the Jeju satsuma is from the end of October to February of the following year.
Koreans of all ages enjoy eating the sweet-and-sour Jeju satsumas in the winter. The fruit has abundant juice and a soft flesh. The satsuma appeals to many with its beneficial health qualities―an anti-oxidizing effect, the suppression of the propagation of cancer cells, sodium excretion from the body, a fatigue-reducing function, etc. What’s more, because of their thin skins, satsumas are easier than oranges to peel by hand, so the fruit is easier to eat.
The Seogwipo Area Is the Largest Producer of Satsuma in Korea
In terms of administrative units, Jeju Island consists of Seogwipo City and Jeju City. As Korea’s southernmost area, Seogwipo City―with its warm climate and excellent natural environment―is a major international tourist destination. Satsuma production is one of the representative industries of Seogwipo City. The annual average temperature of the area is 16℃ and it never drops below 0℃, even in the winter, so the city is ideal for the cultivation of such warmth-loving plants as satsuma. On the basis of these advantages, Seogwipo City produces 60 percent of the total amount of Korean satsumas. Seogwipo Growers’ Agricultural Cooperative (SGAC) distributes satsumas grown in the area in the domestic market and exports them overseas.
Operating a Sorting and Packing House for Exported Satsumas, Seogwipo Growers’ Agricultural Cooperative
SGAC distributes about 4,000 tons of Jeju satsumas every year and the organization has been exporting the fruit to foreign countries such as the US and Mongolia since 2011. To expand the export volume, SGAC has been operating a separate sorting and packing house for exported satsumas for the past three years. SGAC’s export goal this year is about 400 tons of the fruit, which is more than a 90-ton increase from last year.
Mr. Kang Chang-ik, the head of the distribution business department of SGAC, introduces the cooperative, “Our sorting and packing house for exported satsumas has a cutting-edge sorting machine, packing line, and low temperature storage facility. Thanks to these facilities, we are able to expand our export volume of satsumas year by year.”
Thorough Management of Satsuma Farms from Cultivation to Harvesting
About 84 farms located on the island are participating in the SGAC export business. To ship only the high-quality satsumas overseas, the cooperative recruits interested farms at the beginning of each year and thoroughly manages the selected farms to produce fruit in accordance with the conditions of the importing countries. SGAC is also making efforts to improve the quality of the satsumas. The organization frequently provides farmers with training related to disease and insect pest control as well as pesticide residues control. The organization requires that satsuma farmers write a detailed export log every day.
Mr. Kang explains, “We’ve set up a system where we first collect export logs from each farm and check the logs for various items―such as pesticide management. Next, we ask a government agency to do sample testing. Finally, we only let farms that receive a passing grade from the government agency export satsumas.”
Rigorous Sorting and Disinfection…Minimizing Decomposition Rate
SGAC is also putting efforts into minimizing the decomposition rate of the satsumas for export. The organization ships its satsumas by sea. During the long time on the ship, a small number of decaying satsumas can affect the rest of the fruit, resulting in claims from the buyers.
To prevent this kind of situation, SGAC filters out all defective and wounded fruits from the harvest―even those that already have a passing grade from a government agency―by sorting them three times in a row at the sorting and packing house. What’s more, an immersion disinfection process was added to the system three years ago in order to prevent the spread of disease and insect pests. The cooperative uses a functional polish that can play the epithelium role in protecting the skin of the satsuma.
SGAC has also increased the strength of the packaging boxes to prevent satsumas from getting damaged if a box collapses during loading. Adhering to a low-temperature transportation system allows the cooperative to maintain the freshness of the exported satsumas.
Mr. Kang says, “We had many instances of satsumas rotting in the early days of the export business because of the lack of experience. But after the introduction of the immersion disinfection process, we’ve been able to keep the decomposition rate below 5 percent. Recently, we haven’t received a single claim related to the rotten fruit. SGAC will manage the quality of satsumas thoroughly so that foreign consumers can enjoy high-quality and fresh Jeju satsumas. We will make every effort to expand the export markets for the Jeju satsuma.”
SGAC Also Exports Hallabong!
Hallabong is a type of Korean satsuma. Its name is a compound of Halla (the name of the highest mountain on the island) and “bong” (which means “top” in Korean). That is because the fruit’s top looks like the peak of the Halla Mountain. The fruit has a high sugar content (about 13-14°Bx), soft flesh, and abundant juice. When you peel a Hallabong, a powerful fragrance, stronger than that of other satsuma varieties, permeates the air. Hallabong is suitable as a diet food on account of being low in calories. It is also rich in vitamin C, so it is good for relieving fatigue and preventing colds.
Hallabong is exported to foreign countries. This year, Korea and the US struck a quarantine agreement, which is an important import requirement for fresh Hallabong.
Mr. Kang says, “We first shipped the Hallabong grown in Seogwipo to Los Angeles and New York last March and will continue targeting the American market.”
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