Unilever Philippines hopes to export pickled cucumber to Europe from its excess production in the Philippines.
Unilever Asia Pacific Ltd. Cluster Procurement Manager Mervin C. Yapan said that the export threshold will be reached when its suppliers, smallholder farmers in Nueva Ecija, produce 2,400 metric tonnes, doubling the current yields.
“Once the specification of cucumbers is okay and the samples are sent to Europe, then that would be a potential for us, the Philippines, to be a source because there is currently a global shortage for gherkins," he added. Gherkins are small cucumbers used for pickling. “So what we will do is to localise and look at Philippines as a central hub for sourcing.”
Yapan added that the Unilever Sustainable Agricultural Code (USAC) calls for the company to train suppliers to adopt sustainable practices and earn a steady income. Unilever currently sources 80% of its agricultural raw materials locally, including pineapples, mangoes, strawberries, purple yam, taro, coconuts, tamarind and turmeric, which are all exported by the company. The company has set a goal of local and sustainable sourcing for 100% of agricultural products by 2020.
Unilever sources its gherkins from Sunrich Manufacturing Corp., its supplier for 12 years. It sells its products under the Lady’s Choice brand. Sunrich hosts a world-class plant and curing facility for gherkin production. “We partner with the farmers. We looked for farmers when Unilever said that they intended to localise the sourcing of the cucumber,” said Sunrich Farms Head of Sales May Samia. Prior to this, Sunrich had been importing cucumbers from India. Samia said the company has added more curing capacity at its processing plant in Laguna as it anticipates the plan to export this year. It has another curing plant in Tarlac.
In the domestic market, puccini cucumber can sell for up to Pesos 13 (US$0.25) per kg. Sunrich's specifications are for cucumbers with a diameter of 1.5 inches, leaving the farmers the option to sell oversized cucumber on the market. Samia added that the smaller cucumbers are preferred as they are more stable in curing.